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)

As I briefly referenced, but didn’t really explain in my previous posts, I’ve found myself suddenly unemployed.

As a freelancer, it’s hard to be “unemployed”. You understand there are times when you’ll have more work than you can handle, and other times when the jobs aren’t there. However, my time working as a freelance writer has been filled with a series of fortunate happenstances that have allowed me to avoid the struggle and worry that many experience.

With my typical lack of humility, I thought this was due to some sort of talent on my part, as well as the tendency I have to approach any new project with extreme enthusiasm. Within a few weeks of deciding to become a freelance writer, I landed a gig with a company that taught me all about writing for SEO gigs, as well as putting out well-written content for websites. I applied for every “content mill” (places with plentiful projects that want you to write for virtually nothing, often for a penny a word or less, but pay promptly and are known to be reputable) that other writers were using. I was accepted at all of them. Bolstered by this success, I started to apply for jobs for which I wasn’t particularly well-qualified, having a month’s experience in the industry under my belt.

Two of them panned out, and became reliable sources of income that have enabled me to work for myself for the past two years. For awhile, they were even allowing me to thrive. I had sub-contractors working for me, because I had more work than I could ever handle. I eventually dropped almost everything, choosing to work full-time for a company that seemed to believe in me. There were people above me on the food chain that were full of praise and positive feedback regarding my writing. I was told clients were specifically asking for me. I was promoted through the ranks, and people in other divisions of the company sent me their overflow work. In short, I was very proud that I was succeeding at work.

Then, everything changed. Unfortunately, it changed right after I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, one that left me unable to work as quickly as I might have liked to for some time. Right after that, my roommate moved out with no notice, effectively doubling my expenses. I went from being on a path to improving my life and correcting mistakes I’d made with my finances and lack of focus to being beaten down lower than ever.

All of the sudden, all the people who encouraged and supported me either left the company or were told to leave the company. Everyone took a 60-70% pay cut. Then, the work dried up, turning my full-time job into something that paid less than working at McDonald’s. Unfortunately, being ill, I didn’t have the stamina to go seek full-time employment outside of my home—I still don’t—and it seemed like opportunity was just nowhere to be found.

I stuck with the company, even as new people were brought in, and more and more “guidelines” and “24 hour deadlines” were implemented for less pay. A “rating” system was implemented, as well as new editors brought in, and I went from being one of the most praised and valuable writers to crying because an article that earned me $3 was torn apart by an editor. To add insult to injury, my communication with the editor made it clear I was a far superior writer, and being judged by someone who couldn’t do what I do as well (or better) was a slap in the face. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t worthwhile anymore, why nobody praised me or rewarded me, why I couldn’t pay my bills, but didn’t have time to look for other projects.

Last week, I was late with an assignment. My last trio of assignments for the day was turned in 90 minutes late. My immediate superior told me that he’d made it clear that if I missed deadlines, he wouldn’t send me work anymore, so effectively, I was fired. I appealed this decision to one of the owners of the company, someone I thought was fond of me, but she wrote back a bland e-mail telling me she was sorry my immediate supervisor and I were unable to come to terms over these issues and she appreciated my loyalty and hard work over the past two years.

It sucks to be fired in a passive-aggressive way, one where nobody uses the word “fired”. You just happen to not receive work from your place of employment anymore. To be honest, I felt a little betrayed by this company. Once upon a time, I felt valuable and essential and as if working for them meant something. By the end, I felt thoroughly expendable, and I was.

I have a problem in life that’s consistent: I never know when to leave. I don’t know if it’s a fear of change (even letting go of something that causes me distress, like my former roommate, who was blatantly toxic to my way of life.), a belief that I can always make things better or that things will get better if I wait it out, or just a sense of loyalty. (I don’t have very many views that fall into categories like “morality” and “ethics”; I’m mostly a walking grey area. However, loyalty is something I demand from anyone wishing to be in my life long-term, and so I deliver it in return.) I stay in relationships long after it’s clear to me that things are over, that there’s no future. I stay in an apartment I dislike because moving is an expensive hassle. I stick with choices that don’t further me in my life goals or make me a happier person because I’m afraid the next choice will suck even more than the previous one.

At the same time, in other points in my life, I’ve been downright impulsive. I was reminded this year that I still have some of that quality lurking around in me. I seem to be an impulsive person who wants security, so refuses to let go of anything that resembles it.

I would love to decide I’m not going to work for the next year, that I’m going to travel and write my novel and step outside of my comfort zone and regain my health and focus on achieving dreams. However, none of those things pay the bills, and I don’t really have the energy to devote to all of those things, plus paying the bills. The end result is me stressing out over paying the bills, and wishing I could live a different kind of life, one where I was healthy and didn’t have to concern myself with frivolities like money and could view life as an experience, not an obligation. I used to live that way, but it came at a pretty heavy price. I am older and wiser and no longer have the luxury of viewing the world that way; responsibility has to be more important than dreams. Yet, living that way robs my day of joy, makes me feel so much older than I am.

I haven’t felt like me in a long time, save for little periods of time here and there where I realised “I’m happy because I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day obligations of life. I’m just living.”

Apparently, I’m a girl who needs to work for a living who was born to be either an aristocrat or a starving bohemian. *laughs*

I am anxious again, about finding work that pays the bills, about the future. I am anxious that time is slipping away from me, that my health and youth and vitality are disappearing. I am anxious that I am struggling so through what are supposed to be the best years of my life, and if I don’t do something, accomplish something soon to ensure my security in this world, I’m going to be a 70-year-old woman who has been cast aside, has no money, poor health, and nobody who truly cares. That thought terrifies me, because I didn’t spend my 20′s thinking about my future or building my career. All the things that truly make me happy are transient, insecure, valuable for the moment, but later just memories.

I have a supportive group of friends, people who tell me that I feel doors closing all around me because it’s time to make dramatic changes, to let go of what does not help me grow as a person. These people look at me and see potential I do not see, see a person I do not see. What I look at as a loss of security or a rock to lean on, they view as letting go of an albatross keeping me from doing something great and valuable.

I don’t have time to do something great and valuable. I am no literary genius, no celebrity, no great talent or beauty or intellect or charmer. I am just like everyone else, simply more lost. I don’t know how to live a life I love without starving on the street, because what I love is beauty and luxury and elegance and fun. In many ways, I am a frivolous person who likes being amused as much as possible. In other ways, I’m a creative and intelligent and highly sensitive person who loves thoughts and ideas and using my energy to create, instead of working for survival.

I don’t know what to do with my life. I wish I could do something I loved, that also gave me a sense of security, as well as some of the little luxuries that make life an experience. But I’m a grown-up; an ill person with seriously ill parents from which I am somewhat estranged. I know that I’ve been alone in my life for a long time; when all my friends had family to help them finance their dreams, set up a new apartment, or move to a new city, I was on my own. However, I can’t help but feel that someday soon, I’ll be even more alone, because the family that isn’t really part of my life won’t even be there.

The future frightens me. The uncertainty frightens me. It never used to, because I always thought I was young and had the luxury of doing whatever I wanted, and mistakes didn’t have consequences. I’ve learned otherwise, and as a result, learned to fear uncertainty. I am no longer young and out there “experiencing”; I’m an adult who is supposed to have goals and plans and stability.

I wonder why it is not in my nature to be that person, especially if I have gifts and talents and potential that others see in me. I don’t think I am lazy, because when I love something, I throw myself into it wholeheartedly. When I have an ambition, little can stand in my way. But I am largely uninspired; acquiring the tools for day-to-day survival doesn’t seem to motivate me as it does everyone else in the world.

I don’t look at life the same way everyone else does, I think. While some find this charming or think I am somehow interesting or unconventional or wise, I don’t know it serves me well in a practical sense.

I might want to permanently trade in my joie de vivre for practicality, or actively look to marry well. Yet, doing the first left me with an anxiety disorder, and I’ve failed at the second, multiple times. I seem to pass up opportunities that may provide me with the security I claim to want, in favour of independence and freedom, something I haven’t been aware until recently was that valuable to me. Yet, to be independent, you need the tools and temperament to survive independently. I don’t possess either.

So, again, what is it that I want to do with my life? *sighs*

“I had internalized messages during my youth—messages of being too big, too loud, too passionate.I had been told by my experiences that people stayed around longer if you made your needs as brief and palatable as possible, and then went about your day becoming exactly who they need you to be.

I remember the exact day when I realized that I could, instead, choose to be myself.”

—-Mara Glatzel,Medicinal Marzipan

Being yourself isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially in a world full of people who look at the concept as something that’s weird, scary, unconventional, or something worthy of shaking your head at disapproval. For a world full of people who all want to grow up to be celebrities for one reason or another, there’s a total lack of awareness of what it really means to put yourself out there. You know when you put yourself, or some public image of yourself, out for public consumption and people tear you down just for being you? Multiply that by tens of thousands, and that’s what it’s like to be a celebrity or public figure.

Being yourself requires you to be a strong person. Remember when someone told you, as a kid, “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” Well, it took you five minutes of social interaction in the world to realise that person straight out lied to you. What they really meant you to learn is “Smile, conform, fit in, and pretend to be just the same as everyone else, and you’ll be accepted.”

Accepted, maybe. But will you stand out, make an impact, fulfill your dreams, make the most of your potential, take chances? Never. You’ll get sucked into a quiet comfort zone of acceptance and security, and as you grow older, that translates into a seemingly secure and traditional career path, a car you can’t really afford, a house, a spouse, a dog, a cat, and a few interests you mostly keep to yourself. If you’re young and single, you’ll spend your time looking flawless, making your life sound exciting and perfect, and remind the recently-Botoxed ladies sipping martinis at your table that you are someone to be envied. If you’re a bit older and have children, you’ll sip lattes with the even-more-recently Botoxed crowd, and smile perfectly while you point out that your child, whom you’ve named Kieran or Brendan or Madison or something that implies your child will never pick up a dirty sock in his/her life, is so far advanced for his/her age. That is life, of course. Conformity, playing nice, following the rules, and realising the reward is “I get to pretend I’m better than you whenever possible.”

When is the last time you spent time with someone, even a close friend, who stripped away all the bullshit and was completely honest, authentic, and willing to “be themselves” with you? Look around your world. It’s less common than you think, unless you intentionally make it otherwise.

I happened to, recently, cross paths with a 21-year-old sorority girl, properly coiffed dyed blonde hair and perfect manicure in place, along with an attitude that said “I’m not here for your approval”. Yet, despite my attempts at conversation, she pretty much ignored me, looking at me like I was the most boring person in the world. When, after the group had a few drinks, I turned up the charisma a little bit to include off-colour comments and snarky remarks, she actually told me “Shhhhh. People can hear you”., as if I were a five year old child in need of correction.

This girl, who tried so hard to exude enough confidence that other females would believe she wasn’t in need of any approval and loved her perfect life, was made uncomfortable by the fact that I would say anything I wanted to say without really giving a shit if a total stranger overheard me. That’s when I realised this: I am old. I don’t spend my time faking confidence and pretending to be comfortable around people. I have spent so much time “being myself” in social situations that I don’t even remember how often that can be scary and off-putting to others.

Not shockingly, she immediately re-seated herself at a dinner party to talk to the only two single, available men who were interested in making her the centre of attention, and convinced them to leave the dinner, and the rest of the group, which was too “lame” for her tastes. Prior to her re-seating herself, I’d been having conversation with these people, and it obviously didn’t occur to her that it was more rude to interrupt someone’s conversation to deflect attention to yourself than to tell a joke in a loud, boisterous tone that made old Southern women scowl at your lack of class.

Whatever. I know I’m a classy bitch. New York *totally* wants me back. :P

I remember being that girl, in some shape or form, always needing to compensate for some insecurity by making others think I was unapproachable, remaining a little aloof, to give the impression that “I’m just a little out of your league”. I would hijack your party and take people elsewhere, turning it into my party without a second thought that I was being disrespectful to the host. It didn’t occur to me that it should matter, honestly. Being that girl was a way to deflect any kind of insecurity; “As long as you pay attention to me, I have the validation I need.”

Except, the thing is, there’s never enough attention in the world to provide the validation that comes from “being yourself”.

One of the harshest things anyone ever told me, back when I was 25 or so, and still approached the entire world as my stage and every time I left my apartment, it was a public appearance…was that I wasn’t real. This actually came from someone who was sufficiently charmed by me, regardless, to invest time and energy and affection in me…so it proves men can be a little hypocritical, and still want your company when you’re 25 and attractive, “real” or not….but he said, at an event, “Every time I spend time with you, I feel like I’m spending time with a character, and not a real person.”

That person isn’t someone who I kept in my life, or I’d care to say hello to if we ever crossed paths, but he did provide me with that one sage-if-hurtful piece of advice. I knew that “being myself” was being someone who didn’t fit in here in the South, someone who was loud and boisterous and weird and flamboyant and covered herself in glitter and says “Ooooo!” to stuff a 6-year-old girl would love. So, I tried to reinvent myself, to put on a version of me that would be socially acceptable to a world I found very judgmental, very superficial, and very insecure.

Long story short: That didn’t work. That didn’t work to such an extreme I almost ended up being driven out of town by hate and judgment and gossip, about less than half of which was true.

After that, I said, “Fuck it”, and took “being myself” to a whole other extreme. If I couldn’t be accepted and perfect and flawless, I was going to shock everyone with my unconventional ways.

That was actually pretty fun, for awhile. But it also didn’t work. I felt there was nobody in my life, save a handful of people, who really knew me or cared about me. I didn’t trust anyone. And while you can combat the scandal of a bad reputation in a small town that pretends it’s a city (like Atlanta) by exaggerating your notoriety and making jokes at your own expense, at some point, you realise that what you need is a new perspective.

I never decided I was, one day, going to wake up and “be myself”. I was just too tired of caring what everyone else thought to do it anymore. And once I did, I found a whole group of people who never would have been scandalised by any of my behaviour—past, present, or future. I found friends who stuck around for years and years. I found people who made fun of my quirks, but still loved me and supported me. As soon as I bothered to be who I was, I found it easy to invite people in my life who liked that person.

I can still be a little guarded, a little insecure. I’ve learned the hard way to choose my friends wisely. I don’t open up easily. I have thousands of acquaintances, and a select group of friends. Some people still don’t like me because I’m “too much”, or flamboyant, or downright odd. They don’t think my stories about dating equally odd, “high-profile” people or anecdotes about the silly situations I got myself into before I was older and wiser are entertaining, and I don’t blame them. You can’t please everyone, and “being myself” does often mean being weird, unconventional, flamboyant, and saying things that cause others to turn bright red. I get how some people, especially in the South, especially those who aren’t particularly secure in themselves, don’t like that. I get how my snarkiness annoys others in the same way overly perky, upper-induced people make me want to go home and listen to Nirvana. (I think one of my favourite people, Dorothy Parker, would highly approve.) Some people just don’t like me when I’m “being myself”. And, yet, some people are devoted admirers because of those things.

Being sick over the past year really put things into perspective for me, made me seek out different kinds of friendships, forced me to become more introspective, gave me the opportunity to see things in other people I’d previously missed. I’ve become not only more self-aware, but generally more intuitive and perceptive as a result of needing to take time out from the world. I’ve become a huge fan of one-on-one interactions with others, and realised just how much I hate “clubbing”, and maybe, I secretly always did. I’ve learned that most of my insecurities over the years weren’t real (if you think you’re fat at a size 6, there’s nothing like gaining 30 pounds and five years to make you re-evaluate that girl you judged so harshly.) I’ve learned that most of what was off-putting to people wasn’t that I dared to be my unconventional self, but because there were so many times when I didn’t. I was a social hypocrite, like so much of the world, living one way behind closed doors, yet putting on another face for social occasions. I didn’t let anyone in, didn’t let people get too close. Most of my relationships had an element of superficiality to them I wouldn’t tolerate now.

Yes, as it turns out, I am kind of old. Because I can’t go back to being that faux-perfect-looking, alpha-female, “slightly too good for you” 21-year-old girl, mostly because I know I’m not going to grow up to be that same, even more successful, more socially appropriate 31-year-old-woman. I’m going to realise that’s not me, it never was, and if that means I’m not as appreciated as I should be as a consequence, it’s more likely because I’m in the wrong setting than anything about me is flawed.

Out of all of life’s lessons, “be yourself” is the hardest to learn, mostly because we’re conditioned at such an early age to learn there are social repercussions if yourself happens to be kind of not like everyone else.

Here’s the memo: Everyone else isn’t like everyone else, either. They’re just more people who are scared to be themselves, and believe there’s safety in numbers.

Conformity and blending in isn’t happiness. It’s just one more way in which you’re doing the world, and yourself, a disservice. I have a magnet on my refrigerator, with a quote reading “Stop spending your time trying to be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.”

I got fired from my “regular” job yesterday, a primary source of income and responsibility in my life for well over two years. I’m still processing, and not ready to write about it, or deal with the sudden lack of security and constancy this represents in my world. Strangely, it feels like a loss, yet a loss that has freedom as a side effect. I slept 12 hours in a row last night, peacefully, when I should be worried as hell about my future.

Instead, I wonder if someone taking away the safety of being regular is what it takes to remind me that I’m extraordinary, and should be focusing my energy on doing extraordinary things…or at least living a life that makes me happy, instead of settling for one that resembles “secure adulthood”.

I meant to spend time today writing about the trouble I got myself into while visiting Charlotte last week, but suddenly and without warning, got overwhelmed by work. So, on a related note…..:

It’s no secret that Americans have a lot of unhealthy habits. Study after study is being performed in order to prove that many aspects of the way we live are not only decreasing our quality of life, but leading us to live less healthy, economically prosperous, and long lives than previous generations.

America, as a culture, does not understand the concept of joie de vivre. We eat too much, drink too much, and smoke too much, but actually have little appreciation for the joy of these bad habits, engaging in quantity over quality. We work more hours than ever before, but often make less money in the process, and so few of us actually enjoy what we do, choosing instead the route of “working for the weekend”. We surround ourselves with people, yet rarely connect with them. We utilise all sorts of technology to make our lives easier and more productive, yet spend hours on end wasting time to fill our eight-hour quota at the office or because there’s nothing interesting on television.

Americans do not understand the joy of living, not really, and it’s because we are not taught to focus on that. We are instead, at an early age, taught the benefits of busy work, following rules, keeping pace with the rest of the class, suppressing individuality, not questioning authority, putting personal feelings aside when necessary, and focusing on achievement as a stepping stone to more focus and more achievement—which may ultimately be rewarded, but may also leave you feeling as lost and empty and confused as those who checked out and chose to simply not care. Not only are we not a particularly happy, vivacious culture, what we’re doing isn’t working for us. The next generation of children are the first in centuries to have a lower life expectancy than their parents, yet we’re steadily raising the retirement age to compensate for a bankrupt Social Security system. Half of college graduates in 2012 are unemployed, yet the average student loan debt is $50,000. Today’s young adults in their 20′s and 30′s are getting married, having families, and buying homes 50% less frequently than their parents. 40% of the country does not have health care, and another 25% of those covered are not covered adequately.

Yes, it’s fair to say we consistently engage in a system that does not work, but judge and criticise those who choose not to buy into that system.

That’s why it’s inspiring to me to read about the work habits of writer, feminist, free-thinker, and bon vivante Simone de Beauvoir. She is legendary for her copious writings on feminism—ideas which extolled the virtues of living alone, maintaining a self-sufficient income, polyamoury and non-monogamy within committed relationships, and nurturing creative gifts rather than children—as well as her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, a relationship documented by an incredible number of daily communications detailing their lives, together and separately. She published numerous books, was known for her great number of friends and lovers, her entertaining social presence, and was a patroness of all sorts of artists, intellectuals, and free-thinkers. She was, quite simply, very much ahead of her time, and someone I greatly admire.

However, the interesting thing about Madame de Beauvoir is that, for all her free-spirited ways, she also maintained a reputation for being one of the hardest working artists of her time. She managed to avoid burning out by working 7 hours a day—3 in the morning and 4 in the evening—without distraction, and took 2-3 months between books to travel and rejuvenate each year.

She worked far less than most any of us could imagine, and yet, remains one of the most prolific writers in literary history. On top of it, she lived comfortably, found time to have the kind of friendships and love affairs most of us spend a lifetime searching for, and was quite involved in both the cultural and hedonistic pursuits of her era.

The question is, does living a more balanced and well-rounded lifestyle not only make your life a more enjoyable one (I’m fond of saying that since you only live once, and you never know when the ride is coming to an end, it’s fairly silly to waste time filling your life with obligations and things that don’t inspire any sort of passion, as most of us do.), but make you a more brilliant, accomplished, cultured person?

Many Europeans still believe so. They don’t work as many hours as the average American, Japanese, or Indian citizen, but many enjoy a higher quality of life and longer life expectancy. There is an attitude of enjoyment rather than excess, of appreciating the simpler things rather than moving as quickly as possible, and celebrating love and friendship as keys to a happy life.

The next time I’m tempted to spend my day in front of glowing pieces of technology, wearing my PJs, I think I need to remind myself that Madame de Beauvoir would hardly approve. :P Of course, she didn’t live in the suburbs of a city that is the poster child for the evils of urban sprawl without a car, so I think she might understand why I’m not meeting friends for a 5 PM cocktail and gossip in the middle of the week.

However, my unconventional schedule is probably something that most Americans don’t understand, but it works for me. I try to get up around 11, work until 4 PM when my pieces are due, and then spend the rest of the evening socialising, reading, watching TV, or catching up with friends and family on the phone. New assignments come out at 5 PM each day, so if I have a heavy workload, I’ll start work again at 12 AM and see what I get done before bedtime, at 3 AM. If I don’t, I’ll use the time to write in my journal or work on creative projects. I find I have the most creative energy and fewest distractions after midnight, simply because I’m a night owl. Of course, this doesn’t work for me on the weekends, when I’ll typically stay out later than I should, enjoy life, have a few too many drinks, and only have the afternoons to get anything done. However, I then often have extra time on Sunday, a day I don’t often schedule anything to do…so it balances out. Most people are surprised–given my relatively laid-back, unambitious attitude toward work, love for sleeping until 11 AM, and general desire to have life be a fun, entertaining ride—when they learn that I often work 7 days a week. It’s just that I’m typically working when everyone else is not. *laughs* Like Simone de Beauvoir, I have the freedom to take time out here and there, something I would not have in a more traditional lifestyle.

I so very much live in the wrong place for me, in the wrong atmosphere, maybe even in the wrong time period. I have, throughout my life, generally felt misplaced. However, after a decade, Atlanta still doesn’t feel like my home. It feels more like a transient stop along my journey that somehow turned into a third of my life. It’s a shame, in a way, I have so many connections that are dear to me that make me want to remain in a place I’ve never quite belonged. I wonder what it will take to make this place “home” to me, other than a 9-5 corporate job, a car, and a little bit of liposuction. :P

We must overcome the notion that we must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary, and leads you to the mediocre.”—Uta Hagen

Life has been a fairly stressful endeavour for me lately, but I feel as if I’ve been pushing myself, and I think that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, largely due to the types of drugs I am on, I don’t really have much stamina and endurance anymore. I used to be able to sit and work all night long if I needed to, or stay out until the sun came up, partying with my friends. These days, at some point, I inevitably start to feel tired and shaky and as if the only place I want to spend time is my bed.

The main stressor in my life is the work situation; courtesy of some recent changes, I’m working twice as hard (or at least 1.5 times as hard), but the net result is a paycheck that’s 50% smaller. I know this has probably caused some people to either decide to leave the company, or to buckle down and try to become a veritable factory of quality work, but I need stable income in order to pay my bills, never mind get the medical care I need. The logical alternative is to work harder and try to complete more articles per day, or look for additional projects to supplement my income, but my lack of stamina doesn’t just affect me physically. After 4-5 hours of solid, undisturbed work, I feel both physically and emotionally exhausted. It is the time in my life I can least afford to be ill, and yet I have little to say about the whole deal. On top of it, the company has now instituted a 24-hour turnaround on all assignments, and have made it clear they don’t intend to be too forgiving towards those who don’t meet deadlines. I suppose they look at it as if everyone’s replaceable, and nobody indispensable, which is largely true.

Yet, I’ve been doing my best to restructure my life to make myself stronger and keep up. I don’t really have the extra time and energy to seek out new assignments, or try to find a new job, so it’s mostly taking it one day at a time. It’s just a sad realisation that I won’t be able to make it working on a freelance basis with this pay cut. For over a year, I’ve made a nice income for a single person…more than I’d make working in an office, waiting tables, or giving people coffee at Starbucks. It’s even more than I’d make becoming a teacher or whatever else people with degrees in liberal arts subjects end up doing. But, that’s the income I need to make in order to improve my life…and it would have, significantly, had I not gotten seriously ill in 2011…and not half that sum. :( I don’t feel like I have a lot of options, and I feel a bit depressed about everything sometimes, which is far from productive. I just wonder why someone with as many talents, varied life experience, and unusual personality as I possess can’t figure out how to use any of those assets to get a stable career that I enjoy off the ground. Sometimes, I wonder if work just isn’t my thing; other aspects of life have always come easily to me. I was always smart enough to do well in school, personable enough to succeed in the social aspects of life, interesting enough to not have trouble meeting people to date or starting relationships, clever enough to formulate a nice place to live even when I had very little. When it comes to money, though, I have always struggled.

Herein lies the problem. I like money. I like shopping and martinis and nice restaurants and jewelry. And I am not lazy; if I knew what I needed to do to make the sort of money I need to comfortably engage in the type of lifestyle I’d like to have, I’d do it. I don’t want to be a millionaire, or part of the 1%, or even well-to-do. I just want to never have to worry about the practicalities of life, and still engage in the little frivolities that make my world a better place.

All the things that interest and intrigue me aren’t skills that translate to making money; the blogging habit I’ve had for 10 years, the book I’m working on (that nobody will ever read), the poetry I write, the parties I throw, the events I plan, even if I were to take up acting again. Nobody pays you just to be unique and creative and different and fabulous in that weird way that makes you stand out. It wins you friends and admirers, it makes you enemies, it throws adventures in your path, it makes life interesting…but it does not pay your bills, or your medical expenses.

For those who don’t know, in addition to recently being diagnosed with a vestibular disorder called vestibular neuronitis, I’ve also been diagnosed with panic disorder. Panic disorder sucks, and I don’t know why I’ve suffered with it for the past six months, but after reading the Wikipedia entry on it, it’s clear that I have it. I believe I developed it when I developed the vestibular neuronitis, following a severe sunburn and subsequent infection and dehydration from not taking care of myself wisely on the beach. I had a number of panic attacks over a period of two or three weeks before visiting the ER for help, and the ER, as well as a number of doctors who misdiagnosed my symptoms, put me on drugs with some terrible side effects. The result is that any time anything feels wrong with my body, I have a type of panic attack. It can range from mild enough that it’s gone within 30 seconds of changing my surroundings to needing to take an extra 2 milligrams of Valium to simply needing to leave and go home. (the last kind, the most severe kind, typically triggers a migraine. Within an hour or two of rest, Coca-Cola, and someone comforting me, I am typically better, although left very drained.).

The doctors have recommended that I see both a specialist for vestibular rehab and a psychiatrist who specialises in panic and anxiety disorders. I’ve been a little hesitant about doing these things, although I know I need to, because I know they may make me feel worse for awhile before things improve…and I simply don’t have the time to feel worse. I can’t afford to get fired because I was too busy freaking out to work.

I also would like to get off my current medications, the ones that cause me to resemble the Goodyear blimp and gain weight if I eat more than 800 calories a day. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, just want to switch you to whatever drug of choice they believe is most helpful. I have at least four types of commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medicines in my cabinet. They all made me feel like I’d rather discontinue existing than take that pill, which seems kind of contrary to the point.

They also told me about something called “cognitive behavioural therapy”, where I teach my brain to react in more positive ways. (obviously, nobody gets that my mind and body falling apart are reasons for my brain to feel less than positive, and for me to every day remind myself “What the hell happened to the charming and attractive person I used to be?”.) It’s basically “face the fear and do it anyway, unless you have a panic attack”.

So, I’ve been trying. I went out to dinner with a number of friends on Friday, and when I got there, immediately felt lightheaded and dizzy because we were seated on the highest possible level (seriously, in another room, we could stand on a chair and touch the roof. If it were a house, it would be really cute and I’d love it. ) There were also flickering lights, both of which seem to trigger vertigo and feelings of panic. I managed to ignore it, and even stood up for about 15 minutes to converse with people at the other end of the table. (standing up for too long often makes me want to fall down.) In the end, it ended up being a very good night, but it took a lot of discussion with my brain to get me to that point.

Today, I decided I was tired of being fat, when the scale hit the highest number I’ve ever seen in my life. My metabolism is slowing down to the point where I could not eat for days and not lose a pound (yet, I can’t do that, because the drugs I’m on make me light-headed and mess with my blood sugar if I don’t eat enough.), and I know/have heard of people on the drugs I’m on gaining 50-75 pounds. There is no way I’m letting that happen to my body. So, I decided to fight back and go for a 10 minute walk. It was exhausting, since one of my anxiety triggers is wide, open, overwhelming spaces. (I can’t set foot into Target without hyperventilating, which is apparently not uncommon for people with this inner ear disorder.)

I felt panic setting in twice, but I focused on telling my brain “NO, I’m going to walk for 10 minutes, period.”. Every other day, I’m going to add a minute to my walk, and slowly try to increase my endurance. This will, of course, not burn any calories, but at least it will get me outside again.

My well-intentioned roommate cooked tonight, making a chicken pot pie recipe he found on the low-glycemic recipe site I sent him. Little did I know, he “adapted” it, adding a ton of fat and calories and carbs. He really is a very good cook, and I applaud him learning to cook…but since he has, not only has he gained a noticeable amount of weight, his best friend is also starting to sport a bit of a belly. It could be that we’re all going through middle age, but I think it’s more of a “Don’t cook like Paula Deen” issue.

I may have to learn to cook healthy recipes, although I hate cooking, so I know I have control over what’s in what I’m eating. The problem: I really hate cooking.

I never knew that feeling and being healthy could be so difficult. I always took health so much for granted. I’d give absolutely anything to be able to rewind my life a year, and feel the way I did then. I would never take the ability to feel and look good, to seem “normal”, for granted again.

The only blessing that I have in my life is the supportive network of friends who seem to care and stick beside me, no matter what. I know they miss the person I used to be, too, but I’ve gotten an immense amount of support through things. The prideful, egoistic part of me simply wants to hide away from everyone until I’m better, rather than have people ridicule me for being fat or talk about how difficult I was the last time they saw me. I don’t want the world to see me when I’m unattractive, fragile, or just a downright unpleasant person.

But, another part of me is reminded that’s what friends are for, and nobody judges me as harshly as I do myself…except,of course, the people who hate me. They don’t cut me one bit of slack.

I just get sad sometimes because I know, deep inside, there’s this person who is so much better—on so many levels–than who I am now. And it confounds me that the person I am now, who is damaged in so many ways, could be loved, or liked, or even tolerated, by anyone else.

Too stressed out with work and sickness and dog-sitting to write anything of interest. Mostly, nothing interesting happens to me lately, anyhow. :P

However, I did see this quote I absolutely loved on Twitter today, so I’ll just leave you all with this thought as I pig out on Domino’s in my PJ’s with a box of tissues in my lap :P (yeah, I’ve seen better days.)

“Real men don’t date the most beautiful girl in the world, they date the girl who makes their world the most beautiful.”~ Anonymous

Only 22 more articles about lawyers, dentists, and plastic surgeons to go. I never knew how much there was to possibly correct about oneself until I started this job. *laughs*

An old friend of mine pointed this song out to me a few weeks ago, because he told me it reminded him of me (for obvious reasons.) Not typically my sort of music, but I think it’s pretty, and now it randomly sticks in my head.


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

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

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

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

Yesterday, I took some time to go through the over 800 unmoderated comments sitting on this website. It was a slow and arduous task, but finally, I’ve gotten myself caught up.

You see, I initially made the decision to keep comments moderated because I have my fair share of enemies, people who don’t share my life perspective, and people who, quite frankly, aren’t shedding any tears over my stories of days that go less than well. However, it turns out that’s less of a compelling argument for moderating comments than the fact that I am somehow constantly being attacked by spam-bots. They leave at least 5 spam-oriented messages per day, and it’s more than a little annoying.

In the midst of going through the tons of spam, I realised I’d had some actual comments on entries, most long outdated. Some were from friends I know and love and speak to fairly regularly, but others were from strangers asking for advice on things. Since it interests me that a stranger would care to visit my site (I mean, many of my closest friends don’t read my blogs.), it’s even more mysterious that someone would ask my advice on something. But, since I had a few questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.

* Question: “How do you go about getting past writer’s block in order to write for a living and be productive every day?”I’m not going to lie, not every day is productive, particularly since I’ve developed this illness, which affects both my creativity and how fast I can work. Much of the work I do, it’s easy to become creatively challenged, because you see a lot of repeat requests for what’s essential repetitive advertising copy. I try to have more than one project going on at a time, so if one really bores me to the point of being uninspired, I can switch gears. Sometimes, I’ll ask my boyfriend for ideas, and he’ll say something that will spark a sentence and get me writing again.

One of the best cures for writer’s block, for me, is letting things flow organically. Writing on here, in my journal, or an e-mail to a friend doesn’t require too much thought or worry over being creative or interesting enough. It’s just second nature. Taking a break to blog or Facebook or e-mail helps, as long as I don’t get sucked into the vortex of spending hours on Not Work.

* Question: “Are you afraid people will judge you when you write so much personal stuff on your blog? Why don’t you just stick to less personal topics?” The answer is, of course, I’m afraid of that all the time. But every time you put yourself out there, you’re in a position to be judged. If you let that fear of being judged limit your expression of yourself, you can’t be an artist. I’ve been doing this blogging thing for over a decade now, and from the moment I started, I was always willing to be more personal and more real than others. I get notes from people on FB telling me I should limit what I share, or friends angry about being written about on this blog. On the other hand, I get people…some friends, some those I barely know, and some complete strangers…write to me about their personal struggles. One thing I’ve learned over the 10 years is that openness can engender resentment and fear, but it can also engender even more openness. The fact that an article I posted about my life would inspire a teenage girl I’ll never meet to write to me about her struggles with an eating disorder, recovering from sexual abuse, dealing with depression, or engaging in self-destructive behaviour absolutely stuns me. On a selfish level, it makes me feel significant. So, I’ll keep sharing.

*Question: “Why don’t you put pictures of yourself and your life on your website?” This is an easy one. First off, there have to be some levels of privacy in every online space, and mine has always been that I’m most comfortable letting my voice speak for me. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting photos of other people in my life on here, and I’m not really interesting, bizarre, or attractive enough to make daily pictures of me anything anyone would care much about. I do love art and photography, and you’ll see some interesting visuals on this site…just not of me; unless, of course, I happen to appear in someone’s art show or something. *laughs* If you friend me on Facebook, I’ve tons of photos on there, so you can verify I’m a real person. But, truly, I’m just an ordinary girl. You couldn’t live vicariously through me without being bored.

* Question: “Who is Christina Perri dating?”. You know, I’ve absolutely no idea. While I love Christina Perri and we share a lot in common, I don’t actually know her in person. Maybe if I’d spent more time in Philly our paths would have crossed. I do know much of her material on her album comes from her experiences dating someone with BPD (borderline personality disorder.) It seems that’s complicated enough without press getting involved.

* Question: “Are you really polyamourous and can people actually be happy living like that?” An odd question, but the answer is yes to both. I’m currently in a monogamous relationship, but I suspect that a certain amount of “wiring” goes into determining whether or not one is suited to a polyamourous lifestyle. I was non-monogamous for about 7 years, and then I met the right someone, and things changed…but I sometimes suspect that, at heart, my beliefs and outlook on the world might allow for less traditional relationship arrangements. Acting on those beliefs is a different story. Many people are happy in all types of relationships, and the poly lifestyle can be a rewarding one, but it’s not for every person nor for every couple. I refer anyone who’s interested in learning more to “The Myth Of Monogamy” by David Barash. Also, watch the film “Kinsey”. :)

* Question: “Do you meet a lot of creepy people at Meetup?On occasion, I’ll run into the bizarre, rude, or just plain disturbing person. It’s the exception, though, and not the rule.

* Question: Did you meet your boyfriend through Meetup.Com?” Yes, I did. I also met some of my closest friends, including my current and former roommate. It’s a great resource I can’t say enough about.

* Question: “I like the pictures you post of costumes and arty stuff. Can you do a Halloween costume blog with suggestions and stuff?” I wish I’d seen this a month ago when it was posted, but yes, that’s a good idea. I love talking about costumes.

* Question: “Are you willing to have guest posts on your blog by writers that want to get their name out there?” I’ve never done that before, but I’d be open to it, if your posts fit the theme of my blog, which is largely about relationships, pop culture, entertainment, and surviving life as a young person in an increasingly impersonal digital age.

If you guys have questions for me in the future, I strongly suggest sending them to me via e-mail: ladyguenevere@gmail.com. It won’t take 5 months for me to see your comment, and you won’t think me rude for ignoring you.

Mailbag empty! Spam bots, disappear!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!:)