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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may have noticed there haven’t been too many articles promoting my writing, interviews, and other creative projects. Sadly, I think the illness that’s kept me inside has robbed me of a good deal of inspiration. There are so many blank pages staring back at me. 🙁

Fortunately, I think I went and broke the cycle by doing a guest blog spot on the lovely Mysti Parker’s blog, where she hosted a writing challenge that featured different authors and bloggers doing personal essays on every letter, A-Z. I’ve been fortunate to cross Mysti’s path a few times, as she is not only an accomplished author I met via Goodreads, but a mentor over at Writer’s Village University. I even won a little contest on her blog last year, writing on a flash fiction prompt. She has a wonderful community of friends and writers out there, and I highly recommend checking her out. 🙂

My letter was “Y”, and I chose to write an essay on youth, and growing older. It is an odd subject for someone my age to tackle, I know. Such reflections are usually done by writers in their 50’s and 60’s. I thought it might be interesting to approach the idea of lost youth from the perspective of someone who is suddenly what the world would consider “an adult”, and doesn’t always feel equipped to handle such a responsibility.

I’d love if you’d read the essay here!

Please show us both some love with likes, comments, sharing, and all that jazz….:)

And, as a bonus, I’m sharing a poem I wrote almost as a joke a few months ago. It’s “Ode To The Trolls”, and designed to teach children (or people of any age) to deal with bullying and being made to feel “less than”. It is both real and satirical (you know, rather like Stephen Colbert), so it’s best read to a Dr. Seuss sing-song rhythm, either aloud or in your head. Enjoy! 😉


“Ode To The Trolls”

“There’s a problem today
That makes everyone mad
Angry and quiet,
Disgusted and sad.
You’ll notice one day
People don’t often agree
And being disrespectful to others
Is something you’ll see.
I don’t recommend it,
You shouldn’t really try it,
But you don’t have to listen
And you don’t have to keep quiet.
You may be a child, an adult
Or a teen
But at some point and some time
You’ll meet someone who’s mean.
She may think she’s funny,
He may be aggressive
But bullies are awful
Really, truly offensive.
On the playground, at work,
Or an Internet troll,
Bullies don’t fit
One particular role.
When one makes the decision
To come after you
You’ll wonder what you did wrong
And what you should do.
The truth is it’s nothing,
You’re perfectly fine
(Though we all do embarrassing things
From time to time.)
And though it may hurt you,
This moment will pass.
Just handle yourself with grace
And with class.
When it comes to people,
It’s easy to see
There is really and truly
Not a right way to be.
When people are angry
And cause a commotion
It’s them and not you
That create this emotion.
People aren’t always good
And they aren’t always bad,
But in the heart of a bully
You’ll often see someone sad.
There isn’t one way to be
That is never a crime;
We’re all going to get picked on
From time to time.
Maybe you’re really smart
Super-nice, extra-pretty
Or always willing to help
Others out in a hurry.
Maybe you have special talents
Are the head of your class,
Have lots of friends,
Or can kick a ball down the grass.
Maybe you’re that one person
That others can find
When they’re sad or they’re scared
Because you’re humble and kind.
Maybe you don’t even know who you are,
What is real, what is true,
But lurking inside
Is something special, creative, and new.
And when people can see it
They become really jealous,
Trying to erase all the great,
Wonderful things people tell us.
Maybe you’re black, and
Maybe you’re white;
Maybe you’re Muslim
Or Israelite.
Maybe you’ve made mistakes
Or you’ve spoken too loud,
Or you’ve done something silly
In front of a crowd.
You might feel too short,
Or you might feel too tall;
Or you might feel like no one
Ever sees you at all.
Maybe your hair is curly
Or red like a fire,
Or you’re bad at sports
But great in the choir.
You might be a guy
Who knows how to dance;
You might be a tomboy
Who always wears pants.
Maybe you’re Asian
And still bad at math,
Or you live with two moms,
Or you live with two dads.
Whoever you are, there’s a stereotype
Of who you should be
And what you should like.
But girls can play football
And boys can like pink.
You must learn to ignore
Those who speak and don’t think.
People may gossip or call you names
Bullies play mischievous,
Devious games.
It’s not your fault,
It’s not your decision.
You don’t deserve all the
Scorn and derision.
You may think it’s you
That you’re stupid, or weird
When the truth is we all have
Our doubts and our fears.
There isn’t one person,
No matter how strong
Who doesn’t look in the mirror
And find something wrong.
When people are bullies,
When people are mean,
They don’t like themselves
And so, make a scene.
People are perfect
In all shapes and all sizes
From all races and countries
Friends are remarkable prizes.
They make your life better,
They make it seem fair
That you are who you are,
That you are here and not there.
But no matter how special you are
Helpful, modest or nice,
Someone will say something mean
Without thinking twice.
Words can hurt deeply,
But whatever they say
Nobody else has the power
To ruin your day.
Whatever happens, and
Whatever you do
You must never, not ever
Once stop being you.
Maybe you’re skinny,
And maybe you’re fat;
Maybe you like dogs
Better than cats.
Being yourself is
To live unrepentant
And having opinions
Is what makes you authentic.
But whatever you say,
And whatever is real
Leads people to judge
The way that you feel.
They’ll tell you you’re wrong
That you should keep quiet
And you may be utterly
Tempted to try it.
When you are yourself,
You’re much criticised;
Supported and loved,
But also despised.
I’ve lived and I’ve learned,
And this much is true:
“Just be yourself”
Isn’t easy to do.
Deep down you must know
There’s no reason for shame,
But you will hear judgment
And you will hear blame.
Whoever you are
And whatever you do,
Somebody, somewhere,
Doesn’t like you.
So, why should you care?
Really, what does it matter?
There will always be people
Who will make your heart shatter.
You take a deep breath,
You count to ten-
Then you put the pieces together
All over again.
Kindness and love
Are still everywhere
But the courage to share them
With others is rare.
People today, they
All want to fit in,
As if being different
Is the world’s biggest sin.
Different is pretty,
Expressive, unique;
It may make someone’s heart
Skip a beat.
People may tell you
Your thinking is wrong,
But they are narrow-minded and scared
Because you are strong.
You don’t have to tell me,
I really do understand
Fitting in with the world
Should be part of the plan.
Going along with the crowd
Makes you feel protected,
Accepted and liked
Instead of rejected.
But those who are different
Help the world change;
Some of the best people ever
Were remarkably strange!
You might be an actor, inventor,
Or poet
You might fight injustice
Love others, and show it.
You might make new music,
Find a cure for disease,
Travel the world,
Rescue kittens from trees.
You might be a pilot,
The first girl aboard submarines,
Or help save the world
By keeping it green.
Or, maybe, one day,
You’ll be a mom or a dad
And deep in your heart
You’ll be awfully glad
That although people hurt you
Or mocked you with glee
You had the courage to say
“I am me!”
Because what makes you so different
Is what makes this all true:
There’s nobody better
Than irreplaceable you. “

~ February 28th, 2014

Today, the United States government has entered a state of partial shut-down, and I anticipate that things will be at a standstill for some time before they begin to look up. I’m not intending to write about this very current issue, even though it is relevant to all of us. However, I did post a statement on my Facebook page explaining why I’d be keeping oddly silent through a period of controversy, something that is not like me at all. It reads as follows:

“I don’t comment on political things much. It isn’t because I don’t have opinions; on the contrary, I have very strong opinions. But I also have the irritating ability to see both sides of a situation and discuss a problem from that perspective, which seems to annoy both “sides” of any issue. I look for ways for people to compromise and work together whenever possible, and those who see things in black and white tend to get angry with me, because I rarely do. So, I will spend tomorrow avoiding all commentary on the current political issues or partisan “blaming” conversations. I will say, though, if there were more people like me on our Congress, we wouldn’t have an “us vs. them” mentality that eliminates the idea of compromise for the greater good, in favour of behaving like children playing a game where winning is the only thing that matters. That is all I have to say about that.”

So, yes. Although I do not work for the government, it feels a bit like it should be a holiday today. I mean, why I am I meant to sit around being productive today? Instead, I thought I’d head over here and say hello to you guys. I haven’t done as well with keeping up on my blogging projects as I should, and I’m appreciative of the regular readers who drop by to look for new stories, even when there are not any.

For those who missed it, my latest project has been an involvement with Nerdy Minds, an online magazine for all things geek-culture related. They were initially delighted to have me as a contributor, because they really didn’t have someone on staff who wasn’t your “typical geek” writing about the culture from somewhat of an outside perspective. My very first post,
The Myth Of The Geek Girl
, stirred up a good deal of controversy and debate on Facebook and amongst the geek community at large. In fact, the response (both of a positive and negative nature) was so immediate and inspired so many strong opinions, I was asked to write a follow-up piece.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: writing for an audience that is not yours and expressing opinions on the internet is a bit like wandering into a minefield. When you write on your own blog, you have a bit of a security net. When you write a book, you have a finished work or a character or something to hide behind. When you write an opinion piece based upon your own life and share it with the world, there is no hiding. People judge. The commentary can get personal. You need to be a thick-skinned person to put yourself and your opinions out there in an authentic, vulnerable fashion and not be affected by the backlash. I, admittedly, am sensitive to the point of being overly sensitive. I take things personally when they are not meant that way. You might imagine how I react to the things that are most certainly meant that way.

Yet, throughout my life and my writing career, I’ve had the following pointed out: “You know how to make friends. You know how to get people to like you. If you just employ those strategies and hold back on sharing so much of yourself, you’ll find it easier to ingratiate yourself with any group of people. You’re a charming person; does it matter so much to be authentic and to have your voice heard?”

The answer is yes, of course it does. I addressed this issue in a snarky piece about
Surviving The Social Scene In 2013
at the beginning of the year. If you are an artist in any way shape and form, you understand that none of the aforementioned suggestions apply to you. They simply cannot co-exist with your identity as an artist without one suffering greatly. As an artist, it isn’t your job to make people like you. It isn’t even your job to pay attention to what your readers say, what your critics say, what your friends and family say. It isn’t your job to explain yourself and become a more beloved person. The job of an artist is to get people to examine how they think, how they feel, and how that is reflective (or not) of society. The job of an artist is to evoke a response and initiate dialogue. If acceptance is always the ultimate goal, one must embrace conformity much more than I am willing to do. I like acceptance. I like to be liked. However, the comments that meant the most to me were hearing from women who’d encountered all sorts of experiences that made them uncomfortable, and thanked me for sharing mine. The comments that meant the most to me were from people who wanted to reference my pieces in their own work and discussions on the topic, the people who validated me as an artist with something to say, not as a likeable girl.

Perhaps I don’t need to be liked enough that I believe the only important thing I have to say is on the topic of “Why Yellow Is Out In 2014″. Yet, the truth is, I do care, and when people make personal comments or actively dislike me, I cry. It doesn’t matter if I do not know or will never meet that person. Judgement hurts. However, it doesn’t hurt enough to make me believe toning down my personality, expressing myself a little less strongly, or working to keep the peace and making certain everyone will like me is worth it. I dislike conflict, but I cannot mold myself to the expectations of others to avoid conflict and live a life where I am more “accepted” by all. I cannot refuse to stand out because it makes others uncomfortable.

A good friend told me yesterday that he was quite concerned about me, because he always sees me as a bright shining light in the middle of a world that isn’t equipped for such a thing. He is afraid that the people around me who are not as open and adventurous as I can be, the people both in my personal and professional life who’d like to see me knocked down a peg or two, the pressure to live in a society whose mantra seems to be “conformity and pleasing others is the ticket to success”, and the difficult situations in my life one might characterise as “The Challenging Process Of Growing Up” are all things that will ultimately dim that light. It was the right thing to say, because my reply was along the lines of, “Don’t underestimate me. I may not be too strong or too special, but I’m a fighter. You never have to worry. I will cry and feel bruised and battered, but I’ll always get back up. I have to. ”

I do not consider myself “provocative” or “ballsy” or even “confident”, but I thank those who give me credit for being such a strong type of person. I don’t think there is anything particularly special about me. I write about things that are relevant to me, and things I believe others might read and think, “I can relate to that.” I say the things I think people should be saying, even if not everyone wishes to hear them. And, however much it hurts, I can’t change that desire for authentic self-expression simply because someone doesn’t like me or judges me. After living my life online for 13 years, I’m quite familiar with what it’s like to be a polarising personality. I’m also quite familiar with how important it becomes when someone tells you that you’ve left a positive influence in that person’s life, simply by being yourself. If you have that gift, and most of us do, why should fear keep you from sharing it?

In fact, the experience has rekindled my passion for blogging, and reminded me to pay more attention to my own. In October, I will be bringing back the ever-popular “Literary Libations” segment, and will be creating a group on Goodreads to bring together authors, bloggers, and others who realise that building a brand, marketing a book, or getting traffic to a blog isn’t something that can be accomplished in a bubble.

I’ll also be attending the annual SIEGE Conference this Thursday through Sunday, where I’ll be helping to handle registration and bringing my own unique version of sunshine and rainbows (i.e., snark, vodka, and glitter) to a really diverse and fun crowd of people.

And did I mention it’s October? That, of course, means Halloween—more events, more costumes, and more zany adventures when possible. If you’re not yet my Facebook friend, I urge you to come on over and join me and my unique crew of peeps, and share in the adventures.

See you all soon!:)

Yes, you know you were waiting for it. :P Due to the overwhelming (positive and negative) response to my article this week on “The Myth Of The Geek Girl”, and the many threads of discussion that spun off from it, I was asked to write a companion piece. Obviously, I am a glutton for punishment. *laughs*

I do not anticipate I will be writing for the publication in the future. I am a professional who brings them a huge spike in numbers whenever I publish. Yet, I’m expected to do more work than I do for any paying job. I’m expected to do things in exactly the way they want, although my way is something that, I’ve discovered over time, is more successful as a marketing tactic. I write about controversial things where I am attacked by strangers for their hits, and everyone who defends me does so privately…and I’m asked to write a second article defending and explaining myself. Frankly, me writing to this crowd about why they’ve always made me feel ostracised is equivalent to asking Abraham Lincoln to win over plantation owners.

All this animosity came to a head today because the girl who runs the blog I wanted to “help out” didn’t like that I wasn’t linking to my posts the right way. There’s no compensation for any of this, and I didn’t work today so I could finish the article and find images and she could edit it. Then, once I’d promoted to half of FB, she asked me to delete them all and link directly to the group’s page and tiny thumbnail, so it would redirect to their group’s FB page and everything would be in one place. I told her she’d get less traffic that way..and by that time, the comments had already started rolling in. She still wanted me to undo and redo all my work. Meanwhile, I bring in a larger audience than any other person on that site, and you think they’d want me around. But they don’t, really, and the “geek following” just wants to tear me down, no matter what I say. I can’t do anything right, no matter how hard I try. But I’m always there to take the hits. It’s not fair to me.

I know what they get from me. What am I getting from them? I thought support and encouragement, because they were my friends. Yesterday, their only other professional writer quit. I tried and tried to get her not to. I understand why I could not change her mind. I was absolutely livid at what they asked me to do for them, after all I’d done. I don’t work well being micro-managed, and I’ve left other gigs because of it.

So, since this will be my last article, and I will likely be torn limb from limb by their audience, who does not find me charming in the slightest…please stop by and say hello and goodbye, leave an encouraging comment, and whatever else. I will, once October comes around, be focusing on my blog and my audience…since you’re the ones who are always there for me, and if you don’t like what I have to say…I’ve disabled comments. ;P

Sometimes, what starts out as a piece on your personal blog can evolve into an essay that strangely finds the right home. :) I posted a personal piece on this topic about a year ago, after feeling rather alienated, isolated, and generally unappreciated at a Meetup hosted by The Guy I Am Currently Dating. With a little revamping, it became a female-positive essay about how it’s always better to be your authentic self, published on a site for members of the community which had a few representatives initially made me feel a bit judged and insecure.

If you’re bored in the middle of your Monday afternoon, stop by Nerdy Minds and check out my first contribution. This one is an essay on “The Myth Of The Fake Geek Girl”. Whether you are a geek, a girl, both, or neither, you’ll likely relate.
Check it out and show some love! :)

This weekend was an exceptionally fun one, followed immediate by a huge sense of sadness and my body deciding to be ill because of all the emotional stress and anxiety. I promise, I shall return soon, but visit my guest post and tell me what you think!:)

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)

Thank you to everyone who donated to Ophelia’s Wayward Muse, and to everyone who gave me advice about the publication process! My goal was to raise $600 towards publication of my poetry compilation, and ended up raising $625, so it means a lot to me that my friends believed in this project, and in helping me cross an important goal off of my bucket list. :)

I’ll now be spending the next few weeks working on editing, typesetting, cover design, and making sure that the finished project is something to which I am thrilled to lend my name. I anticipate that publication of the book will be in completed in November, and I’ll also be releasing an e-book format, and listing the book for sale on Amazon.

Of course, we’ll be throwing a huge event in honour of this achievement, because any reason is a good reason to get together with friends and celebrate life, right? It may not be the world’s biggest achievement, but for someone who has spent a lifetime writing poetry and hiding it under her bed in hopes nobody would ever read it, it’s a monumental step. Self-confidence and not diminishing dreams, however small, are an essential part of happiness.

I have never been emotionally fearless enough to put myself out there, because the inevitable criticism and judgment and “You suck” is always hard to take. Acting is a little different; it isn’t *you* who is being judged, so much as a production, a director, a character you’ve been hired to play. Writing, especially the kind of creative stuff I put out there, is intensely personal.

Earlier in the year, I decided that’s exactly *why* I had to start putting myself and my work out there. I have a voice, and a story to tell, which makes me just like every other human being on this earth. Yet, most choose not to tell their stories and not to share their voice with the world, because insecurity and criticism and fear of rejection are really strong demons.

This year, I decided it was time to prove I was stronger.

Some supportive friends have told me this may just be an important and transformative step in the journey of my life, one that admittedly doesn’t have a map. I’m not nearly that ambitious, but it touches me to be reminded that people believe in me. Some people believe in me a lot more than they ought to, and give me more credit than I deserve (I often pretend otherwise, but deep down, I’m a pretty humble person). I think that has been the best part of this process, being reminded I have a support system out there, and that’s a pretty remarkable gift. I may have left New York a long time ago, but a lot of the New York mentality has remained with me: I have the gift of mistakenly feeling I am alone and isolated, even in a crowd of people. I tend to be a bit distrustful, to think the worst of people, especially when it comes to what they think of me.

I woke up really happy this morning, after having a dream in which I was perfectly content and happy. It was an unrealistic dream; in real life, the things that made me happy would never work out that way, but it was a reflection of my idealistic self peeking through.

Being reminded that sometimes, people care about you and believe in you is important, for everyone.

So, a huge thank you to everyone who reached out to me to show support, encouragement, friendship, and to remind me that my friendship has touched them in a positive way. All of you have touched me, as well, or there’d be no inspiration behind this book in the first place. :)

Stay tuned for the occasional update on how Ophelia is progressing. :) Now, time for possibly the least exciting weekend ever. *laughs* (What happened to those days when I was not ill, and lived in a walkable part of town, and downtime was a rarity? I’m not as young as I used to be, but I kind of miss that.)

You may have noticed that I’ve been strangely MIA from this blog for awhile. There are a lot of reasons I could give, from trying to work out feelings and relationship issues with people in my life, to having work to do, to feeling absolutely uninspired to do anything because I am now permitted to watch 7 hours of TV each night, thanks to the simultaneous airing of the Olympics, Big Brother 14, and Showtime’s Big Brother After Dark.

The real reason is, however, that I simply have blogger’s block. It’s a condition similar to writer’s block, only it’s one where you realise you have nothing interesting to blog about because it’s been ages since something interesting happened to you. I find myself struggling to hold up my end of the conversation in talks with even my closest friends, and if you ask any of them, you’ll hear testimony about my innate ability to have 6-hour phone calls or sit at a bar talking until it closes down at 3 AM. Therefore, my sudden realisation that I have nothing to discuss really frightens me.

“OMG!!!! I have become old and boring! When did this happen? Do I still have friends? Will anyone ever be attracted to me ever again? HELP!!!”

Yeah, it goes something like that. You see, I’ve always relied on my sparkling wit, snarky conversational skills, flirtatious banter, and penchant for not shutting up to carry me far in life. I am very ill-equipped to be an introvert. I am even more ill-equipped to be an introvert with a blog.

This exile from life is largely self-imposed. I really do have work to be done, and I really do love the Olympics and Big Brother. I’ve also spent a lot of my free time working on promoting and completing my first book of poetry, Ophelia’s Wayward Muse, for which I’m fundraising on Kickstarter.

“OMG! Why was I so ambitious in thinking people would care about this? I only have 9 days left to raise $175, and people aren’t donating! Is it because my writing sucks? Is it because I don’t have any friends? WHYYYYY? HELP!!”

Yeah, it’s kind of something like that. (But seriously, if you read this blog on a regular basis, you should donate. It either means you’re my friend, or what I write doesn’t suck, and I need the validation…in the form of monetary donations. It will allow me to publish something offline for which I will request more validation. Please keep enabling me. It makes my day. ;P)

The summer is the main reason for my self-imposed exile. It was only a year ago that I was paying regular visits to doctors, hospitals, and emergency rooms, and preoccupied with the idea that I was not going to live to see 2012. Obviously, I am still here (which actually caused me to lose a bet with a friend. Yes, I have the kind of friends willing to bet on the likelihood of my impending death. I totally think that’s awesome.), although there’s about 25 pounds more of me. In a way, that’s a kind of, sort of death, when you can no longer fit into your favourite outfits because you need to take pills that make you fat, sleepy, and hungry. It turns out, the doctors disagree with me. They call this a “minor side effect” and tell me my “symptoms are responding well to medication”.

One thing they can’t treat, though, is the effect that last year’s heat exhaustion/sunburn/massive infection/dehydration/malnutrition episode had on the part of my body that regulates my temperature. I’ve always had a hard time with that, being the kind of person who felt perfectly comfortable in 110 degree heat until I suddenly passed out. If I get caught in the rain, I’m freezing, and need to take a hot shower, and then have an evening of flu-like symptoms. My hypothalamus and I have never been good friends. However, being sick has taken things to a new level.

Of course, summer in Atlanta means every day brings a balmy 93-degree day (which feels like 97 degrees.) Even when I venture out to air-conditioned places, I find myself feeling overheated and dizzy. Touching my arm will reveal you can fry an egg on it. I decimate ice cubes on contact. Summer and I used to get along very well, but we have officially broken up. I’m considering relocating to Seattle, or SoCal.

I should be thankful. This summer is not one of hospital visits, panic attacks, and unpleasant tests. Medical professionals seem to think I am getting better, even if I don’t always feel that way. “Taking it easy because it’s too hot outside for my body to handle” shouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Yet, it makes me feel like someone who isn’t me. I have no interesting stories to relate, no drama to entertain me, and no silly pictures for Facebook. I haven’t been to the eyebrow waxing lady in 6 weeks, and the results are sad. Living vicariously through those around me helps, but those around me have been either stressed-out, sick, or both lately, and I’d like to hide from that a bit.

Basically, I can’t wait until the fall arrives. I’m hoping to be well enough to travel, to go out with friends, and to get back to feeling like my old self again. In the meantime, I’m just making the most of my downtime. :)

Today, I’m going to take the time to address some questions that people have sent to me, or have come to my page looking for advice about, regarding medications and illness. If this doesn’t apply to you, just skip. :)

Because I’ve blogged about my medical journey pretty extensively, I get people who end up on this page looking for information on the drugs that have aided in my recovery, Atenolol (Tenormin) and Diazepam (Valium). I’m on Atenolol because since getting sick, I’ve developed an abnormally high pulse rate, and also suffer migraines with aura. (I have always had headaches. I just blamed them on sinus troubles and allergies, which I don’t have. Turns out, I have migraines. Fortunately, they are not as severe as some suffer from.) I’m on Valium because I suffer from a vestibular disorder that causes vertigo, light sensitivity, and migraines. These things also cause anxiety and panic attacks. I was also prescribed Klonopin to take during panic attacks. Since discovering that my panic attacks were related to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar is a side effect of beta-blockers) or an impending “migraine with aura” attack (which last about 20-30 minutes for me), I have learned to manage my symptoms without using the Klonopin…so, I’ve gone about 8 months without a severe, full-on panic attack where I had to be medicated.

For those who come here asking about Atenolol and Valium, and “do they work”, my personal experience is yes. They do. Valium isn’t a good drug for everyone; some people find it highly addictive and within a year, are increasing their doses outrageously. I’m on a relatively low “maintenance” dose of 7.5 mg a day, and only take an extra quarter tablet when symptoms of vertigo or panic arise. Other drugs, such as Xanax and Klonopin treat anxiety, but do not treat vertigo, migraines, or other neurological symptoms. I’ve had bad experiences taking these, and other treatments for vestibular disorder and migraine have had no effect on me. People ask if Valium makes you eat more, or causes you to lose your appetite. It actually does neither for me.

Atenolol is a different story. It’s a tough drug to acclimate to, and I know at least 3 people who needed to get off of it fairly quickly because of the side effects. A common question seems to center around Atenolol and weight, and whether what someone is experiencing is normal.

In my experience, unfortunately, yes. I gained a fifth of my body weight in a year while on Atenolol. Most of that was in the first 3 months of using it. It took that long to realise that the medication was screwing around with my blood sugar, causing me to be hungry all the time, and to eat food I wouldn’t normally eat. On top of it, Atenolol is designed to cut down your cardiac load, so your metabolism slows and you don’t burn calories. When you first start the medication, you’ll feel like sleeping 10 hours a night and your doctor will tell you no cardio. Once you adjust, you will be able to exercise again, and will likely be advised to eat a certain kind of diet, depending on why you went on the drug in the first place. (usually it’s a low-carb, low-salt diet for high blood pressure sufferers. My doctor recommended a low-glycemic diet for me, since I don’t have a history of blood pressure issues.) Some people continue to gain weight no matter what on Atenolol. I have a friend who gained over 70 pounds. This is true of many beta-blockers, alpha-blockers, and calcium-channel blockers. If you keep gaining after the first 8 weeks, see about switching medications. Do NOT abruptly stop taking your beta-blocker, replace it with an anxiety pill, or even decide to cut it in half. Withdrawals are not only hard on you, they can be life-threatening. I speak from personal experience. I didn’t like the weight issue, so stopped taking the Atenolol after 6 months of positive results from it. I actually noticed my blood pressure drop, so thought this was an awesome choice. 4 days later, I almost fell down the stairs because the world went fuzzy and black on me. You’d better believe I took the beta-blocker immediately. Not only was my blood sugar dangerously low from withdrawals, so was my blood pressure. If you decide to quit your beta-blocker, your doctor recommends what amounts to a 12-week slow detox.

After that episode, I decided to stick with the drug. I went from 10 migraines with aura a month and unpleasant panic attacks to 5, and then one month, I noticed I didn’t have any at all. I noticed that cutting calories and trying to be as “normal’ as possible put a halt to the weight gain. When I pig out on foods loaded with carbs and salt, the scale will go up 5 pounds overnight. You can’t do this. People on beta-blockers should aim for a low-carb, protein-rich diet, and eat 5 small meals a day to maintain blood sugar. I have caffeine sometimes. I have chocolate. But I have them in smaller amounts, and see no negative results. (Note: I have not been able to tolerate coffee or espresso since starting this medication. Heart palpitations resulted.) I no longer suffer from agoraphobia because I’m afraid of having a panic attack in public.

People ask me whether or not they should lower their calorie intake to 1000 or 800 calories because they’ve been put on this drug and can’t burn calories like they should. Your doctor will tell you no. However, I’m slightly under 5 feet tall, and my pre-medication caloric suggestion was only 1300 calories per day. So, yes, on days when I am basically on bed rest, I will cut my calories to 800. If you’re 5’10″ and 190 pounds, you won’t be able to get away with this. Also, I only take 25 mg per day of the drug. If you’re on a higher dosage, eating that little will endanger your health. Don’t do it.

It’s really hard to cut calories that dramatically, anyhow, because Atenolol makes you really hungry and messes with your blood sugar. Even if you only eat 800 calories, they need to be spaced out throughout the day.

It’s hard to lose weight on Atenolol, and although the literature tells you to expect to gain 5 pounds on a beta-blocker, the reality is that it’s significantly more for many, many people. It sucks. But side effects are the same from other heart medications, as well as depression, anxiety, and migraine treatments. Just know there are a ton of people out there who feel the same way you do. I Googled countless message boards about the subject, only to hear the same stories, over and over again. These pills make you fatter. But for many, they also give you back a reasonable quality of life, and prevent life-endangering consequences. You may not have to be on the beta-blocker forever, and when you’re free of it, you can cardio to your heart’s content. (literally!)

I hope that answers some of the questions that have come my way! Please keep in mind, I’m not a doctor, and if you have issues with your medication, you need to talk to yours. Get a second, or third, opinion if necessary. I’m just a girl who has decided to relate her personal struggle with a sudden onset, chronic illness with the world. Each person is going to have a different experience.

I will say that, although I’m not always happy with my body or my lack of energy, the treatment I’ve received has resulted in a slow but steady improvement of my symptoms. I have a great support network of friends, people who love me no matter how big my hips get, and being very straightforward about my illness means people tend to understand when something goes wrong. I’m pretty lucky. But I don’t have the energy and the stamina for getting out in the world I once did. This is frustrating to me, often. I want to be better and healthy NOW, before I’m too old to enjoy life. I have to remind myself that sometimes, there’s a part of your life where it’s necessary to be a turtle. Some days are slow. Some days, you hide in your shell. But, eventually, you get there. :)

One of the most popular pages on this blog, and one of the most frequent search terms that unsuspectingly lands people here is “Fifty Shades Of Grey”. A while back, I wrote an article about my hesitance to read these novels, and since I’ve now heard enough feedback from the rest of the world, I can state with some certainty that I will never do so.

However, I’ve learned some valuable lessons due to the popularity of this book that have helped me to grow as a more enlightened individual, and to become a better writer.

* I was more sexually aware at 18 than this author is in her mid-40′s. I understand you want the world to believe this story is being told by a sweet and innocent virgin who is submissive, lacking self-esteem, and likely suffers from an eating disorder. (don’t emphasize the frail and helpless nature of a female character, her petite frame and inability to fight back in any situation, and name her “Ana” if you don’t want the world to know about your former anorexia issues. Also, the weird thing with the guy forcing her to eat while still wanting her tiny and breakable is a dead giveaway that the author of these books needs a healthier relationship with both food and sex.) However, nobody has been that sexually unaware in college since the 1900′s. Kids are having color-coded-bracelet sex parties at 14 these days. Initiation to certain sororities has been known to involve sleeping with a guy your big sisters pick out for you. What world are these characters living in?

*I don’t care how much of an abusive asshole you are, you’re not an experienced dominant at 26. Reviews of this book point out that the male character is awesomely good looking, great in bed, and a skilled dominant in and out of the bedroom. Snippets of the book I’ve read point to the fact that he might actually be a sociopathic control freak who’s kind of making it up as he goes along, and has a poor naive girl who confuses that with the world of BDSM. I’m kind of expecting book three to be a horror story where the guy stalks and murders her. If I met this guy when I was in my early 20′s, I’d have known enough to call the police.

*I can write a book that will be a NY Times best-seller In fact, anyone can. One dimensional characters, boring sex scenes, and lack of female empowerment appeals to women…which says something about women and our society. If you want to write a book that’s even BETTER than this one, buy a thesaurus.

For all the complaining that the media hates women, and politicians hate women, and men hate women, and women are being sent back to the 1950′s more and more with each passing day, here’s the truth: women are the ones who hate women, because they largely dislike themselves. The proof is that both this saga and its tamer, teen counterpart, “The Twilight Saga feature helpless, weak-willed female characters who have low self-esteem and will literally die if the guy that’s made them feel special disappears/hurts their feelings/rejects them. Both are best-selling series that are largely written by women, and read by women.

(Oh, and a side note: all those “evil” magazines that show pictures of size 2 models and promote negative body image to sell products? About 85% of them have female editors-in-chief. Yet Hugh Hefner is the one that somehow disrespects women with his publication?)

So, who’s sending out the fucked-up messages to women of today?

Oh, right. Other women. When you think about it, it makes sense. How many girls/women of any age do you know that genuinely like and support other girls/women in a positive, non-passive-agressive/frenemy kind of way?

However, if you don’t agree with my assessment of “Fifty Shades Of Grey”, based on the fact that I refuse to spend my time and money reading bad soft-core porn with glorified psychological abuse and rape scenes that are dismissed as “misunderstandings” and “No usually means yes when a guy has a big penis”, you should read a very well-written review from someone who did read the books. It’s not only accurate, but entertaining.

And, yes, she wants her time, her money, and her dignity back.

P.S. She also wrote equally entertaining reviews of the second and third novels. Spoiler alert: At the end, Edward turns them all into vampires.

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