Today, I woke up remembering that when I was 20, I ended up in New Orleans, waiting to meet a guy I’d never met but knew very well at the airport. I’m pretty sure I’d never been so nervous about meeting a person in my life. I remember that, always self-conscious about my almost translucently pale skin, I’d attempted to use sunless tanner. What looked like orange Ben Nye pancake makeup was all over everything and it took a very abrasive exfoliating wash and a loofah to remove most of it. Yet, for all my trying, I ended up showing up at the airport wearing a cute white and blue butterfly dress and had orange streaks on my legs. It was, of course, laughable later. Looking back, it was the unfortunate side effect of caring too much about how others might judge you, and it was ridiculous. It was also an illustration in what happens when you take risks. They don’t all work out, but sometimes, it doesn’t matter much. That particular person was so nervous about meeting me, he scarcely noticed my failed experiment in becoming a Jersey Shore cast member.

I’m not sure why I woke up thinking of that day, except maybe that last night, I wore a wig that I bought during that trip. Last night was full of heartbreak and tears, and discussion about ending a 5-year relationship that has meant the world to me, all prompted by silly string. And, there I was, thinking about a younger version of myself who literally dyed herself orange.

I’ve been relatively quiet over here lately, and my poor little blog has been feeling neglected. You see, although I managed to spend the majority of December stuck inside my apartment—something that has led even my most introverted friends to say they’d have gone stir-crazy— I also felt too unwell to write. It’s odd, the feeling that even the thought of picking up a computer (or a pen and journal) might make one feel completely exhausted. I didn’t do much work, to the chagrin of both my bank account and sense of accomplishment. I certainly didn’t do much on the creative front. I even left my Christmas cards until the very last minute, because they are like all of my correspondence, not simply a name scrawled on a card. I write long and often heartfelt messages to the people in my life on occasions that merit cards, and even some that do not.

This year, whether due to illness or some sense of heaviness in my heart, I simply have not wanted to write. For me, writing is, above all, a type of catharsis. It fills the same space in my life that music or performance or any other type of self-expression does for me. For whatever reason, I have not wanted to handle the overwhelming idea of self-expression. That, of course, means that I have been largely disinterested in confronting and examining my own feelings.

About what, I do not know. On the whole, 2013 has been kind of a roller-coaster of a year. For a majority of the year, I seemed much healthier and energetic than what I was used to. In my second year of dealing with what the doctors call a “chronic illness”, there were times I forgot I was ill. I was able to host social events, hang out at clubs and go drinking and dancing with my friends, and reclaim a bit of that adventurous spirit I used to have. I was able to spend over two weeks traveling the East Coast on a bus during the summer months, dealing with challenges such as a crazy heat wave and going back to the beach where my illness first began. I was able to push through the anxiety of dealing with the reality of what my family was going through, and I cried a lot because although my family hasn’t offered me anything resembling home or affection in a long time, the realisation that the shadows and comforts of your childhood are gone and you’re really, truly alone, it’s a hard one.

Through it all, I was also able to visit old friends I see rarely, but all of whom mean a tremendous amount to me. Although they all seemed to be going through something in their own lives, they were also all there for me in their own way, and remembering I have an extensive and varied support system out there– even in the form of old friends whose lives have taken a different path from mine, and others who imagine that might not always be the case— it made me a stronger person. Coming back to Atlanta also made me appreciate the love and support I have here, because family is not always determined by blood ties. I hadn’t been back two weeks before getting news that my mother had a stroke, either her fourth or fifth. This one was rather debilitating, and led the doctors to the conclusion that she should live out the rest of her life in a nursing home. It is difficult to speak to her, as both her speech and hearing are affected, but I try to remember to send letters, cards, packages, and photos, little things that cheer her up. I know that if I were facing illness and isolation for the rest of my life, it is those little things that would be a bright spot.

I managed to handle DragonCon, marching in the parade in incredible heat, going to the SIEGE conference for the weekend, helping The Guy I Am Currently Dating with his annual fundraiser, and throwing a huge party for him where I sang in public in Atlanta for the first time in a few years. I managed to help my brother try to get help dealing with all the responsibility on his shoulders, and to be someone who is there for him. I managed to make it through fun Halloween celebrations, and even attending a concert with loud music and flashing lights. All signs pointed to the idea that I’d be better. A check-up with the doctor yielded good results; my blood pressure was so low, it might soon be time for me to come off medication, and possibly have energy, vitality, and the ability to lose weight again.

Then, in early November, I seemed to have a relapse. Driving in the car would cause an out-of-control sensation near my kidneys that would move to my heart, my lungs, and eventually my brain. I had panic attacks and blood sugar crashes that my normal medications could not control. Thanksgiving, although a lovely holiday tradition of visiting my former roommate and her family (including two beautiful little girls, two dogs, a cat, and a husband) for turkey and Black Friday shopping, left me physically exhausted in a way that is not normal for someone my age. Nevertheless, I kept on going, singing karaoke, playing trivia, and wandering around the Botanical Gardens for four hours in the freezing cold to look at Christmas tree lights.

After the first week of December, I contracted a really bad cold/flu, which turned into an infection that kept me in bed for almost three weeks. As of today, I am still coughing up a lung, as my body’s immune system seems to have no defence against this particular germ. The illness affected my ear, which meant return of panic attacks and migraines, and the prolonged inability to go back out in the world meant a return of the social anxiety symptoms. I was afraid that every time I went out, I’d have a panic attack–which often happened–not as a result of people, but riding in the car. For a month and a half, the feeling of depression returned, which happens every time I get better and then I get worse. I feel like I will never have my life back, never be the person I used to be. I look at photos of a girl who was young and vivacious and desirable and had a certain spark about her, and I do not remember her. I cry because I feel too young to have lost her, and because it is unfair that the doctors have never been able to tell me why. I cry because I want answers; even if I only have a year, or three, or five left to hang out on this earth, I want to know what to do to make them the best possible. I cry because feeling helpless and not in control of anything, not even your own body, is terrifying and lonely.

During this time, I found out that my uncle—one of the only people who helps in the care of my family—was diagnosed with metastatic osteosarcoma. It is the same disease that attacked an ex of mine, so I unfortunately know more about it than I should to believe, “It’s not a big deal; it’s most treatable”. The long-term odds of survival are a dice throw, and my uncle is only in his late 50′s. After that, my friend’s cat passed away. I started to see things as signs; signs that validated my theory that the next year of my life needs to be a “bucket list” year.

I had a wonderful Christmas and birthday weekend, surrounded by people who matter to me, and really just having fun in the kind of way that–for just a little while–reminded me of what it felt like to be me ten years ago. I barely remember that naive, life-loving person who would wake up in the morning and feel genuinely excited about the world and the anything and everything that was possible. But, once in a while, there is a glimpse and a memory—and when that happens, I am honestly happy.

I expected New Year’s Eve to be a fabulous night, and planned dinner with friends, followed by a trip to a club that I’d visited every month I was in town over the past year or so. Ironically, the only place to get dinner reservations for 10 people on short notice was a restaurant that is personally memorable to me because I’ve been there on the “break-up dinner” with people in my past. Twice. I even joked about the bad karma that seemed to be associated with that place, but I wasn’t seriously concerned.

Fast forward to 2014, and everyone has toasted with champagne, done shots, and cans of silly string are being passed around. In order to celebrate all the good memories, we sprayed each other with silly string and danced. It wasn’t until 15 minutes later that I went to see why The Guy I Am (Or Was) Currently Dating wouldn’t dance, which isn’t out of the ordinary. He told me in a very cold voice that I had hurt his feelings (by spraying him with silly string), and a fight ensued. Fast forward, and he is leaving the club and my friend, who was sweet enough to not want to leave me, is consoling me while I cried a LOT and getting another friend to come pick us up. Fast forward again, and The Guy I Am (Or Was) Currently Dating has returned and closing out the tab, and my friend is angry that she called for a ride for us and I’m going home with the guy that made me cry on New Year’s Eve. But it is almost physically impossible for me to just let things go and forget them; I need closure on everything. Fast forward again, and I am home, and we are talking about how different we are and how, after 5 years, there is not necessarily any sign of moving forward in the relationship. I tell him he deserves more than to settle for someone who isn’t right for him and doesn’t make him happy. He says I make him happy, but for the second year in a row, we’ve rung in the New Year crying and barely speaking, so I disagree.

Now, we’re talking about the details of ending the relationship and changing Facebook statuses, and it’s almost absurd to think a 5-year connection can be broken because of silly string. But, that’s precisely what happened, and today, I have barely moved out of bed.

2014 was supposed to be a really awesome year, and frankly, it’s not looking that way for me.

The reality is, I call this my “bucket list” year because at the end of 2014, I really still hope to be both alive and healthy. If I manage to accomplish that, I’ll have made it to a “milestone birthday”, one of those where you realise that whether you like it or not, you’re the grown-up now. It sometimes still seems hard for me to wrap my head around that. Inside, I still feel like that little girl in the blue and white butterfly dress who wanted so badly to be sophisticated and impressive, and thought she knew everything about everything at the age of 20.

When you are ill, and you’re not sure why, and you’re not sure about either the quality or quantity of your life, milestones matter. New Year’s Eve celebrations matter, and not spending them with tears and heartbreak matters. I have had a good life. I’ve also had a hard life, an adventurous life, a life that some judge and others secretly envy. I’ve loved often and lost often, and my heart and my body have enough scars for someone twice my age. I have packed a lot of living into what many might consider not that many years. In some ways, it seems like it’s been 70. Some days, when everything inside my body seems out of control and all I can do is cry and beg someone to help me and find the answers, I do not know that I am going to be there with my friends or loved ones to celebrate a brand new year. You only get so many chances, so many clean slates. If something should happen to me, I know that nobody will be quite certain why, or they’ll find they didn’t do the test for the right thing, and it’s simply too late. I know that part of my “bucket list year” is being a responsible adult, and planning for that day when I won’t be here anymore.

I am the type of person for whom no amount of time would be enough time. I try to be as vibrant and enthusiastic about life as I can. I am growing more comfortable with being alone, but not for too long. It isn’t something I like in too great a quantity. I am trying to become the kind of person I want to be, regardless of whether or not other people like her. I am no longer willing to dye myself orange to impress anyone.

I feel sometimes like I am working against a clock, and I do not want to spend the years I have left being afraid. If there is anything that would be the most meaningful thing to me to accomplish in 2014, it’s learning to find whatever strength I have deep down inside that allows me to be less afraid. If I am less afraid, I can actually make a difference in the world. More than anything else, I cry when I imagine that I will be forgotten, that I will have left nothing of value behind, that I will have touched no one for being here.

I want to live the next year of my life with all the health and energy I can come up with, so that if somehow it is my last, I will be filled with love and memories and feelings of accomplishment and having mattered to the world. I need 2014 to be full of life and experience and emotion and vitality and challenging myself to be that person I always thought I could become. I want all the moments to matter, no matter how small. I know that’s a tall order to ask from a new year, but I am going to try, because it means a lot to me.

One thing that has changed about me is that when I was younger, I was much stupider, but far more fearless. I took a lot of risks. They didn’t all pay off and they weren’t all intelligent, but in some ways, it is much better than never trying. I wasn’t about to wait around and let life happen to me; I went after it. It didn’t always lead me to the best places, but it didn’t keep me standing still, fearful of choosing the wrong thing or suffering painful repercussions.

If I could have just a little of that back, I think I’d feel like the old Alayna again. That person is just this flighty little redhead who doesn’t see an adult when she looks in the mirror, because even though there are now tiny lines and crow’s feet, she will never reach 5 feet tall or have that “serious face” that comes with a lot of responsibility. She will never be beautiful, or delicate, or understated, or made of the same stardust that most people seem to be made of, and she will not be the one in any social situation that everyone misses when she is gone. But she is intelligent, and imaginative, and lively, and believes in soulmates and impulsive adventures and being overdressed and sparkly, even if others dislike it. I try to keep in mind that girl is the kind who is crazy and determined enough to be certain she’s going to be here to see 40…even if she doesn’t have any more stability or certainty in her life than the day she showed up in New Orleans with a blue and white butterfly dress and orange streaks on her legs. It never occurred to that girl that she would not be loved by many, that she would not be successful, or that she would not be strong enough to grow old. It didn’t occur to her to be afraid or feel inferior—she needed the harsh judgment and actions of other people to teach her that—-and I envy her for being that unencumbered, in a way only the really young are. I would like just a little bit of that back in my life.

I am not having a happy holiday season. I got sick with what appeared to be a cold on December 6th. It’s the 20th, and I am still not better. I had a glimmer of hope when my doctor agreed to call in an antibiotic prescription. I gave the medical assistant the pharmacy’s number, but she never called it in. You can’t get it touch with anyone or leave messages, so the best I can hope for is to get help on Monday. If I don’t, I will likely be sick for Christmas Eve, Christmas, my birthday, and maybe even NYE.

Earlier today, during an online conversation about health care, where I attempted to humanise the benefits the ACA has for those the insurance companies refuse to help, despite medical need, by telling my very personal story—someone wrote, “Alayna seems to get her fair share of partying in, so she must be OK.”

When I elaborated on my story and said it was wrong to judge people based on photographs put up on Facebook, I started to be accused of being a drunk, and was told that I was ill because of my own bad choices (completely false.). The person painted me as a crazy, liberal alcoholic, and when I mentioned that the friend whose page this discussion was on warned me that this person was a troll who didn’t like liberals, I then got yelled at for repeating something someone said in private. Because it’s OK to think those things about someone, to warn your friends about them, but not to say it out loud or defend other friends who are being maligned. This friend said “He didn’t want to get involved” in the conversation.

Sadly, those who don’t like you enough to get involved..well, they just don’t like you enough, and that’s that. In my world, when someone is being mistreated, you say something. It’s amazing, the number of people who choose to look the other way, or call out those who are being bullied…rather than those who are doing the bullying.

Words hurt, and I cried a lot. Just once, I’d like to talk with people who are on my wavelength, respect my intelligence, and don’t result to personal attacks. When I lived in NYC, I was the kind of girl with a lot of guy friends…and some of them got into fights defending my honour. It’s been a long time since someone has come along and said “Alayna is an awesome person, and you have no right to say those things about someone you don’t know”. Honestly, I miss that.

Two weeks ago, there was another internet debate where people were rough on me, and there was no one to stand up for me. It feels incredibly lonely.

I read an interesting article recently about sociopaths, empaths, and apaths. The premise is that, even in logical arguments, empaths (about 30% of the population) tend to get bullied by those with sociopathic tendencies (according to the article, about 20% of the population) because they refuse to keep quiet when they feel someone is being treated unfairly.

Most of the world falls into the “apath” category, people who don’t want to get involved, who want everything to be peaceful, and want to avoid negativity. So, it’s hard to see people just lashing out at you and judging you, and knowing there’s nobody who is going to vocally say “Making those statements about a friend isn’t cool for anyone to do”. is very hard. If you noticed, your friends made judgments about me and my personal life long after I’d left the conversation. I had no more to say…they are the ones who felt entitled to judge me. I didn’t make personal remarks about their lifestyle or their choices. It hurts when you realise people inherently don’t care whether you are sick or well, alive or dead, after you had the guts to put yourself out there and be honest and vulnerable.

The last thing I need is to feel there’s one more person whom I’ve met that doesn’t give a crap if I am alive or not, and will think, “Well, it’s her own fault.” That’s exactly how I feel right now. Words hurt people greatly.

Now even The Guy I Am Currently Dating is yelling at me and speaking to me in a voice that suggests everything I say is wrong or annoying. From the moment he got here, he kept talking to me in this very hurtful voice that said “I’m tired and you’re annoying.” When someone is crying and hurt because of a bad day and a lot of disappointment, the last thing they need is more reminders of how lonely life can be when you’re almost middle-aged, broke, and single. So, screw December. I’ve spent most of my time alone wrapping presents and mailing Xmas cards with thoughtful messages and trying to be a thoughtful person. I’ve missed two weeks of fun stuff that I planned for those around me, and nobody has hugged me or come anywhere near me during that time. My Xmas trees both have burned out lights. The only time I’ve heard from my family is that my uncle has cancer, and my mother wants to talk to me from the nursing home, but she’s deaf. My friends are too busy to return something as basic as “hello” once I’m not really needed anymore, leading me to realise I only like people who find me disposable. I think this might be the loneliest I’ve ever felt, but talking about it just gets me yelled at and asking for the physical proximity of another person I’ve dated for 5 years gets an angry, “Fine, I’ll just get it over with and get sick.” I feel so amazingly loved and cherished. I guess when you’re not married, “In sickness and in health” becomes “In sickness, as long as I can stay far away from you that you don’t get me or my mother sick.”

I did my part for a happy holiday season, but it seems incredibly one-sided. Wake me up when it’s 2014 and I can figure out what to do with my life and how to be one of those sweet, pretty girls everyone just loves and wants to be around and how to find one of those relationships where someone totally wants to live together after a year because you’re that freaking awesome and not disposable in any way. I have concluded those girls have it much, much easier. I have never, ever been one of those girls. I look at them, and so many of them are plain, ordinary, kind of unexceptional, uncomplicated women…and yet, people love them because they are so “nice”, and they don’t end up with people in relationships that are going nowhere for years and years, because when you’re that adorable nobody wants to let you go. (Meanwhile, I spent 2 years with a guy who was planning how our relationship would work when he met the right girl and got married, 2 years with another who told me I wasn’t witty and after 2 hours, the veneer of charm that makes people like me wears thing, and 5 years with a guy whose mother lives with him and enjoys saying the most hurtful things to me possible, like pointing out that we’ll never live together or get married because he just “settled” for me–and so far, I haven’t seen indications to the contrary.)

One day, I will be so fucking sweet and adorable and unopinionated that you just can’t stand it. I will, of course, discontinue expressing all my feelings and modestly avoid attention in a ladylike way that is approved of by all.

It’s obviously just not today.

This story starts off predictably, with the anecdote “I was on Facebook today”…..

I was just called an “egocentric cunt” because I discussed my shocking radical feminist views (like that we should have rights, not accept rape culture as funny, and both expect to be treated with respect and treat ourselves with respect.) on the thread of an acquaintance who proudly calls himself anti-feminism, and a friend of his (who he called out for poor treatment of women) who apparently thinks women have value as sexual objects and are “walking vaginas” when he meets them in bars and clubs. Then, when I proposed perhaps meeting people in the meat market that has become American bars and clubs is not the best way to judge, where people often do not present themselves at their best, I was called condescending and told I was part of why feminism doesn’t work (by another woman).

Someone in the thread directed me to a website I found appalling, one that depicted “poems” with graphic descriptions of rape, humiliation, male “privilege”, and it is simply horrible to read. I’d post it here, but I honestly don’t want it to get more views, and it is itself a walking trigger warning. Expressing that it was appalling to me led to it being explained “It’s a joke and it’s supposed to be horrible”.

I don’t understand. In what way is rape and humiliation in poetic form “a joke?” You’re not making up limericks here, but describing what it’s like to humiliate and violate others. The fact that the website was sent to me by a woman is even more odd to me.

I may be a condescending and egocentric cunt, but I often feel I am in a generation where I do not belong. 40 years ago, I think I may have been treated differently, had I been around during that time. I happen to be part of a generation that largely does not demand social progress in a time when most of us should be pissed off and fighting, and becomes angry and wonders what is wrong with you when you do.It upsets me that so many my age, male and female, are proud to be “anti-feminist”, claim that “neo-feminism” is tearing the country down, and state they do not believe in gender equality. And of course, stating that feeling leads to being called a word reserved to demean and offend women as highly as possible. Is that funny, too?

It often feels like fighting a hopelessly losing battle; but I look at our society and how so many people my age are unhappy and unfulfilled and bitter and angry on many levels, and I know I’m not wrong. The things the hippies in the 1960′s were fighting for are not so much reflected in 2013 culture. I guess the lesson to take away is “I ruin everything” when I speak (something a woman wrote about my opinions). Not the first time I’ve heard that, but thanks for the ego boost!

I have loved visiting the great state of North Carolina and made some great friends visiting. But I see why, outside of the tiny little liberal enclaves, it is certainly not a place I belong. I imagine the same is true of most of the Southeast, and I’m certainly not going to change society. But it’s shocking that some of these views come from people my age, who are supposedly my peers.

I wonder if we’re slowly becoming dehumanised, and it is painful to watch. (as determined in previous posts, I am an empath and an idealist.) Also, a condescending and egocentric cunt. It’s like being called “mean” and a “bitch’ at a bar because you’re there to drink with your friends, not to hook up with someone who has had too many and feels “entitled”.

Do I think the fact that our society routinely does this to people shows remarkable lack of empathy or interest in building real relationships and friendships? I absolutely do.

“”The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers.”—Deepak Chopra

It is kind of sad when you realise that someone to whom you one meant something has moved to a different place in life, and you’ve moved from being a valued part of that person’s world to a space where you’ve become incidental.

I suppose this happens to everyone and it is ultimately the nature of allowing other people to occupy space in your life; friends fall out of touch, relationships end, acquaintances move away, people who once found you intriguing are over it or vice versa. I always take it more to heart than most people, yet it seems to happen more frequently. I am fortunate that I have a very loving and supportive network of people in my life, including many who have been in my life through all the years, all the various phases and lifestyles, all the places I’ve called home. They’ve listened to me complain about every heartbreak, every disappointment, every friend who stabbed me in the back, every sucky job that didn’t work out, every idea that turned out to be incredibly stupid or unrealistic.

On the other hand, I have a revolving door of people with whom I was once very close, and then things changed. It is a side effect of a lot of things, from frequently changing social circles and personal ambitions, to years of polyamorous relationships. I remember once upon a time, someone who once mattered a great deal to me and is no longer a part of my world, explained it this way: “Everyone shows up in your life for a reason and when you need what that person brings into your life the most. When people move on, it is often because you already learned and experienced what you were meant to via that person. There is a difference between love and attachment. They do not always go hand in hand. One expands your heart and the other breaks it.”

Of course, this person was a very insightful Zen Buddhist, and at the time, I became very angry at some of the things he said. It is difficult when you consider yourself an important part of someone’s life, and he constantly talks about non-attachment and solitude as the natural condition of people. I made the mistake of taking his philosophies on life personally, a remarkable reflection on my tendency to make virtually anything about me once my emotions get involved.

I will never see the world through the same looking glass my friend did, but I’ve come to see he is right. Love endures many things, and continues even when a person is no longer in your life. Becoming overly attached to everyone who affects you on some deep level is a recipe for a consistent feeling of dissatisfaction with the human race, and eventually, an unwillingness to invest in anyone at all. I have more than one friend who suffers from the side effects of this “for most people, no attachment is permanent” mindset, and can come off as hurtful and insensitive. The truth is, they are this way because, being too sensitive and caring too much, the world has consistently let them down. Sensitive people are often forced to become harder on the outside, more self-protective. Whenever I meet a jaded, somewhat misanthropic person, I know that 8 times out of 10, I’ve encountered a sensitive human being who has been hurt.

I am shocked by the way most of the world seems comfortable with creating and breaking personal attachments to others. It is ironic, because I’m always the one who is dispensing advice to less worldly friends; “Just because you slept together doesn’t mean there’s relationship potential”, “Friends who only call you when they need things or want to talk about their own lives are not your friends”, “If someone treats you like an option, you’re not getting the love and respect you deserve”.

Yet, although I know these things, it is more difficult when it happens. My attachments to others don’t happen as often (I don’t find a new best friend every week because I am bored, or develop a new infatuation every time I come across an interesting person), but when they do, are less easy to discard. I don’t let my guard down for everyone, and so it affects me when I start to feel as if I invested in the wrong person, the kind of person who didn’t care that much and found me disposable.

Of course, life is not that simple. Attachments and emotions and life choices are messy. Someone becoming less attached to you is not always a reflection of apathy, and it’s strangely taken me all these years to learn that. Not that it matters, of course, since it doesn’t change how you feel about that person no longer being such an integral part of your life. Sometimes, the change is temporary, and other times, it isn’t. It’s all very convenient to dismiss someone who has decided to no longer make you a part of his or her life by saying, “That person obviously sucks, and never cared about me. I’m an idiot for not seeing that and caring in the first place, and for still caring”.

But, while a convenient way to detach from others and convince yourself the attachment is not worth missing, it simply isn’t true. As painful as it is, few attachments are forever. The ones that are tend to go through phases, and are frequently very complicated.

As much as I would like every person I ever really invest in and genuinely care for to be part of my life forever, and to make the effort to show I am important to them, it’s an ideal. It’s an ideal that, when it happens, it’s the exception rather than the rule.

However, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I purposely choose to get close to those I believe are sensitive, substantial, and see something in me that’s worth keeping in their lives for the long haul. When it doesn’t work out that way, it saddens me. I have a history of investing too much in others, and keeping attachments in my life that no longer really bring me joy or help me to grow as a person (Meyers-Briggs claims this is a common ENFP trait; we have a hard time just letting go and moving on.) But because I don’t always make the effort to bond with others in a meaningful way, I also don’t see anyone as expendable. I’m never that person who ends a friendship or relationship with a “respectful” e-mail, simply stops calling, or makes one person less important to me because another person has become important. I’ve never been that person who passes through town without visiting, or forgets to send happy birthday wishes, or stands people up because something came up at the last minute. Sometimes, I fight with people in my life, but I don’t threaten to discard them unless that is what someone really wants.

Unless someone really hurts me in some way I can’t get past, once someone means something to me, it means until we’re 80 and sitting on rocking chairs in the nursing home watching Matlock.

I suppose there’s something to be said for those who allow more people to pass through their lives with less attachment, but I’ve had enough acquaintances for a few lifetimes. When I am old, it is not those people I am going to remember, but those I actually allowed myself to love and attempt to understand, no matter how “complicated” it all got.

Life is certainly easier if you don’t believe much in attachment, and virtually everyone is replaceable. Perhaps we’re not all wired to live a life that is easier. I know I don’t seem to be, and I don’t even wish I were, most of the time.

I’m a little bored today, because it seems there are no projects for me to work on. This seems to happen the week of every holiday; instead of the offices just being closed the day before and day after, there is a general slowdown of all projects during the week surrounding every holiday. I suppose that’s good for the spirit in some ways, but my spirit is restless and feels like it should DO something. It also feels it should have money for all the fabulous things it wants to do.

It doesn’t help that it is the coldest day of the year so far, and the wind chill is killer, even inside the apartment. I have the heat on, but I can feel cold air through the floor, the walls, the windows…it’s what happens when you live in a building that’s as old as you are. And, seeing as I’m falling apart, I should not have more unrealistic expectations of the building.

november-rain
Today, I decided to do a free online tarot reading over at Lotus Tarot. I’ve been using their site for as long as I can remember, and every three months or so, I’ll check in for a free reading. It is not a comprehensive reading, because it only uses the cards from the Major Arcana (for those not familiar with Tarot, it’s like playing a card game with only the Royals.) However, it does give a framework for an overall picture of your life. Mine is always oddly very fitting, although in this instance, I can’t say I know who the male in my life that is not to be trusted happens to be. There are a lot of males who are important to my life in one way or another, and I’d like to believe they’re all of the trustworthy sort, so I did not like getting this particular card.

Something you may not know about me is that I’m a firm believer in the power of intuition. While I don’t take things like astrology and tarot and magick and my “psychic dreams” seriously enough to plan my life by them, I do think that some people are naturally more intuitive than others. I have always had an extremely high level of intuition and perceptiveness, to the point where I know things others wish I didn’t know, or I will have emotional reactions to things that haven’t happened yet (but they do.). I have been known to have “visions”, photo-snapshots of life that simply present themselves, when I am in a quiet and meditative state, and dreams that are extremely realistic and turn out to happen exactly the way they appear. I don’t *really* believe in psychics; it would be odd for an agnostic who is skeptical of everything to believe in something even less likely to be proven. I do, however, believe that some people have a more highly developed level of intuition than others, and there may be people out there who can tap into those parts of their brains in ways that the rest of us can’t. And, because life has an odd way of lining up exactly with my tarot readings and my moon phase calendar, I continue to consult them.

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One of the things I’ve always liked about Lotus Tarot is that every 2-3 weeks, you’ll receive information about the tarot card (not just the Major Arcana) that is guiding your life at that point. It is surprising how frequently mine will mirror something I am struggling with, and while it can be disheartening to see a negative card, it is also somewhat of a relief to see my own negative feelings and experiences explained by the card.

For those who read tarot cards for fun, as I do, it’s a wonderful way to learn the meanings of all the cards so that the readings you do for others aren’t quite so general.

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In any case, here’s the reading I received. While it isn’t all positive, it’s not all of a negative nature, either, so things could be worse. ;)


The Lovers

Card 1 (The Lovers) : How you feel about yourself now »

You want love or a new love in your life and a new relationship is in the offering. Even if you are not thinking about love, you’re in for a surprise. If faced with a choice this is an important one and could affect the rest of your life.


Wheel Of Fortune

Card 2 (Wheel Of Fortune) : What you most want at this moment »

The cards suggest that what you most want at this time is a turning point in your life and positive change – well expect it now. Life will go up a gear or two and events will accelerate forward. Destiny is at play here – have you noticed a number of events that seem rather a coincidence? This is synchronicity, trust it and go with the flow.


The Moon

Card 3 (The Moon) : Your fears »

Lies and insecurity are likely to be prominent in your life at the moment, you are afraid of being deceived and feel that you are being misled. Trust your instincts and let them guide you away from those who may seem charming but are only out for their own gains. Your turbulent emotions are muddying the waters – step back and try to find clarity of mind, although this may seem difficult. The Moon does help to illuminate the way and don’t worry, it will turn out alright in the end.


The Tower

Card 4 (The Tower) : What is going for you »

Sometimes sudden disruptive change is inevitable, and as painful as it may seem, we come through it a stronger and better person. No matter how disruptive things are at the moment, or if you feel life is really against you, re-evaluate and move on – often a new direction can bring new opportunities you never dreamed of. If you have been planning to move home you will be experiencing setbacks.


The Magician

Card 5 (The Magician) : What is going against you »

Someone, most likely male, isn’t quite what they seem. Trickery and deception cleverly disguised as charm and friendliness, so be sure that this person really does have your best interests at heart. If someone who you feel wary of is presenting you with a business opportunity, be cautious and trust your instincts.


The Hanged Man

Card 6 (The Hanged Man) : Outcome
»

You will in time know what decision to make about who or what must be given up. This is a time of passage from one phase of your life to another. It may be a difficult choice, and self-sacrifice is never easy, but if you look for truth and integrity and don’t be too materialistic or hang onto things or people for all the wrong reasons, everything will turn out in your favour.

It’s official. I cannot stand the way the society we live in is marching down a “Big Brother”-oriented road.

It is easy enough to blame the rules of corporate America, who have decided it’s no longer enough for someone to give you a suitable reference or vouch for your character and talents to acquire a job, an apartment, a loan, a car, or anything else you might want in order to live like a grown adult. That’s quite a change since 1950, when a willingness to go to work every day, not live in your parents’ basement, and to engage in personal hygiene was all it took to find a place of employment, or a new place to live.

Now, you need to not only be a person, but have a stellar “I’m A Person!” Resume. Credit check, background check, medical history, assurances that you’re not only going to be a good tenant or employee, but that you’re never going to embarrass anyone or cost anyone a dime with problems like getting sick, (which are just annoying to everyone; if something is wrong with you, keep quiet and deal with it on your own time. Why should I care about your problems?) or having made poor life choices (for which you deserve to be homeless and branded, obviously. If you want to exist in society, learn to conform and make sure you have the same moral compass as everyone else.)

We live in a “right to know” state, where everyone feels entitled to know everything about everyone at all times. Remember that time you were arrested for joyriding in your neighbour’s car when you were 18? No? You forgot, because you’re now 48 and a responsible adult?


Well, *I* deserved to know. I can’t look at you the same way ever again, knowing you’re that kind of person. And I feel so betrayed that you didn’t tell me. I should have been smart enough to internet search every aspect of your life so you wouldn’t hurt me by never telling me how much you suck as a human being.

Facetiousness, of course, but it is the mentality behind the world we’ve created for ourselves. The “information age” has turned every person out there into the morality police. How dare you put that photo up of you drinking at a bar? It embarrasses the company that what you do on your personal time is so offensive. And what would your mother think? If you’re going to do things like that, make sure nobody knows, because everyone will judge you…and that could destroy your life. That’s the worst thing that could happen to you, showing the world that you’re a real person. We don’t want real people. We want cooperative drones who think, look, and behave properly, and don’t need a sense of privacy. After all, if you want privacy, you must be doing something wrong.

The key to success in life is passing the “judgment of others test”, over and over again. And, if you don’t, you’re not the kind of person we need around.

The government and big business may have started us down the road of “you’re not a person, you’re an image”, but we’ve certainly perpetuated it. People post every movement of every day on social media, and if you’re not on social media, because you’d like to protect your privacy and your reputation, that, too is a red flag. People run background checks on everyone. It’s not as if the world has gotten so dangerous that people need to do this; in fact, the same safety measures that kept you from getting murdered in the past still apply. However, now, if you want a date with someone, it’s not enough to bring her flowers and meet her at a nice restaurant. You should also assume you will be Googled, and somewhere before the 3rd date, you’ll have to pass the requisite background and credit check. After all, how do I know you if I don’t know everything about you?

You can, of course, use social media and the power of information to destroy your enemies. You can find anything and everything with a paper trail to dig up and put out there for the entire world to see, and you’re not slandering anyone or trying to destroy anyone’s life. You’re just engaging in the freedom of information we all deserve.

Because we are all meant to be so perfect that it is up to us to expose those who aren’t, and judge them as they deserve. We are the morality police.

I have had an incident with someone out there I met in an IRC chatroom in 1998. We were not friends. The only thing I know anything about him was because he began a relentless campaign to stalk me. He went from chatting to me like we were friends, to sending me threats that he would harm himself—or me—because of me. When it got too upsetting, I asked more than one ex-boyfriend to intervene. He promised to stop. But then I’d find he was posting things about me on the internet; true, untrue, things that were out of context. When I moved to Atlanta, I didn’t broadcast my forwarding address to the world. But there was a card waiting for me when I arrived.

At some point, I told him to never contact me again. He became obsessed with the fact that I’d misrepresented myself on the Internet, because I’m not English (I was living in the UK when I met him), because I’m not an actress (just because I’m working in a different field now does not mean I was not once an actress), because I changed my name (you know, like half of Hollywood and New York celebrities), because I have a past that doesn’t conform with his expectations of being a good person. He’s done everything he can to make sure that any sense of stability I acquire, he can tear apart easily. Anything good I do, he can point out, “Too bad you’re a horrible human being and I can prove it”. For years, I’d block him on AIM, and he’d just create new identities to torment me. I’ve had to block him from communicating with me in every way possible. Yet, somehow, the guys I’m dating always end up getting anonymous notes, the details of my past are “outed” to every potential friend and acquaintance, and this guy has made it a personal mission to get me as close to being suicidal as possible. Even then, on my memorial page, he’d probably say “Why are you crying over this girl? Don’t you know what she’s like?”

I’ve attempted to reason with him. I’ve pointed out, ““If you don’t like me, just stay out of my life. My life is not your business. It never was. We never had any sort of relationship. I talked to the wrong guy in a chat room 15 years ago. That’s it. We never have to communicate, ever again.”

That, of course, is not good enough. We live in a “right to know” world, and he feels that because he didn’t have the luxury of knowing everything about me and my life when we met, anyone I cross paths with should know what kind of person I am. You shouldn’t hire me. You shouldn’t be my friend. You shouldn’t like me as a person. You shouldn’t be attracted to me. You shouldn’t applaud anything I do. You should do what you’re meant to do, in this day and age: judge me as harshly as possible.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve atoned for my mistakes. Mistakes have consequences; my life hasn’t been an exception. It doesn’t matter that I’m more empathetic and understanding of others because I myself am far from a perfect person. It doesn’t matter that karma has attacked me ten-fold, and I’m not quite the selfish bitch I was at 18,or even 21, or 25. It doesn’t matter that my mistakes have turned me into the person I am today, and my journey has given me a perspective on the world most people don’t have.

No, what matters is that you look at my past, and judge me…because the world is full of two kinds of people, obviously, good and bad. That can be easily determined with a background check, credit score, and internet search.

Every time this happens, I cry. I feel violated. I feel like I will never be allowed to live a normal live. And then, in true victim mentality, I remind myself that I deserve all of this and I am to blame for those who want to destroy me. If I hadn’t been a bad person, if I had behaved like everyone else, if I hadn’t had anything to make amends for in the first place, if I just kept a low-profile and lived a quiet life, this wouldn’t be necessary.

As many of you know, I have a friend who holds a position at Twitter. He is well-respected and rather high up in the chain of command there. The last time this person attacked me, and I cried because I felt so helpless and violated, I contacted my friend at Twitter. My friend knows of the existence of this person in my life, and promised he’d help get the post removed.

He then contacted me to say that the final word was that Twitter couldn’t just remove things because they were defamatory or revealed information about someone. I could block the person who was talking about me, but there’s no tool available to keep him from referring to me by name, linking to me, or anything else. He agreed that everyone didn’t deserve to know all the details about my life, and that I deserved a modicum of privacy and respect, but “it’s the Internet age. Nobody gets that. If every post on here that tore someone down was removed, half of Twitter would disappear. And people would go elsewhere to go off about how much they hate other people.”

He then told me a story about how he was personally victimized by Twitter and “reputational harm”, at the hands of someone he used to work with. These tweets were picked up by a writer and spun into a story. The story got around pretty quickly. He’d love to sue, but his lawyer has told him he doesn’t have grounds. Free speech, no invasion of privacy, and a “right to know” world.

It’s the society we’ve created. Anyone can say anything about you, and even if part of it’s true, you deserve any public judgment or reputational harm that comes your way. And, really, there’s nothing you can do about it. Learn to be tougher.

That’s why I was absolutely appalled to read in the New York Times about this app. Yes, we all want to know that a certain person is not a serial killer and isn’t abusive. Yes, I can joke with the world about how my taste in men once got so bad that I dated a guy dubbed “The Worst Guy In Atlanta” by a local publication.

But this, this takes invading privacy and finding ways to do harm to someone you may have negative, bitter feelings toward and putting it out there in public to a whole new level.

Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing is private anymore, not even in the bedroom. And although I live much of my life online, there are ways in which I am certainly a very private person. This road we’re traveling down, the one paved with judgment and the right to condemn, rate, and malign others under the guise of “freedom of information” and “I deserve to know.”, it’s a dangerous one. It’s harmful. It does so much more harm than good.

A few years ago, I joked that I was going to develop a social networking tool based on all the people with whom I’ve ever hooked up, dated, had a relationship, etc. I would then send it to my friends, who could build their “tree”. You’d eventually see that your friend actually dated the guy you slept with once, and bond over it. This tool, of course, could be equally useful to men and women.

It was a sarcastic, joking idea…because it could never be implemented. First of all, it’s kind of appalling to erase all shreds of privacy in the world. Secondly, people lie. People get hurt and want to get even. People just want to hurt others because they don’t like them. “Apps” that are used to rate things and discuss people can be used maliciously, very easily. How many restaurants have suffered because someone didn’t like the owner and got all their friends to trash the restaurant on Yelp?

If anything, the Internet seems to prove that people are, at heart, judgmental and have no qualms about seeking revenge. And if there’s a tool that enables that, it will be used to cause harm to another person. And since society has agreed the only thing that matters is how someone looks on paper, the Internet is a great equalizer. We’re all equally defenceless against someone who’d like to destroy us.

Unless, of course, you’ve never hurt anyone, done anything wrong, and are perfect in every way. After all, that’s what you should be, and since you have nothing to hide, sleep easy.

The truth of the matter is, unless someone is an important part of your life, most of another person’s life isn’t something you have a “right to know”. If someone wants you to know something about them, they will tell you. Yes, you deserve to know your potential nanny doesn’t have a history of abusing children. Yes, you deserve to know before you give a loan to someone whether or not they are likely to pay you back. Yes, if inviting someone into your life may put you in physical danger, you deserve to know.

When it comes to who is gay, who’s been arrested, who is bad in bed, who isn’t liked by others, who has left a mysterious past behind them, who has colourful stories that might shock you, who has a bitter ex, who voted fow whom in the last election, who left their previous apartment a mess…well, frankly, you don’t deserve to know. That’s the whole point of getting to know someone; the more they trust you, the more they open up. Demanding that everyone deserves to know everything about everyone else without bothering with the trouble of establishing trust doesn’t just leave people feeling violated, it *is* a violation…and we are all potential victims. Twice, I had someone I thought was a friend print out entries in a “friends only” journal and share them with the entire world. These were grown women, not high school girls.

You think you won’t be violated that way because you know who your friends are? You don’t. And you don’t know who your enemies are, either, and what “app” is being developed that can really ruin your life, your business, or your all-precious “reputation”, until it’s too late. I hope the world thinks about that the next time it wants to use the Internet to take someone down, or to Google someone before even getting to know them.

9 times out of 10, what you think you deserve to know, you don’t. Three decades ago, it wouldn’t have occurred to you that you did.

And yet, we wonder why things aren’t so great. People don’t have jobs, corporations interfere in the private lives of citizens and make outrageous demands, we can’t get loans for college or mortgages to buy a home, less adults own property than ever, we’re fighting over the right to access care when we get sick, the economy sucks, and people are finding themselves either single or divorced in their 30′s,40′s, and 50′s. Nobody can ever meet the right person, even though we know almost everything about each other, thanks to “freedom of information”. So much of what ails us, we’ve created ourselves. Before we continue down this road of hypocrisy, every person should look at his or her own life, and ask: How’s this new society working for me?

Yes, it’s me! I am still alive and well, although I’ve been remarkably absent. For many reasons, I’ve been feeling less than positively about life, and some of the people in it who are very important to me have been quite absent. They always say that the holidays are a difficult time for most people; more people struggle with depression or attempt to commit suicide during the holiday season than any other.

I never really understood that, because I love the holidays! I was born between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and I love the lights and the carols and putting up all the decorations, and sharing Thanksgiving with friends, and while I wish I were in NYC and Philly over the holidays, there is plenty going on here to make it feel like “home for the holidays”.

However, it’s kind of hit me that this year I will not be seeing family during the holiday season. This is not the first time; last year, I was relieved to avoid the travel stress and the even colder temperatures. What has affected me is knowing that there really isn’t a family that can get together and celebrate anymore. Even though this may not affect them too much, as I got older, I always made sure we had the biggest tree and the coolest decorations and spent Xmas eve singing and baking cookies and playing board games. I always felt sad that I was the only one who found this time special, and decided that when I was older, I wanted to make sure I was surrounded by people who loved that, too.

That, of course, never happened. You can’t replace your lack of family when you don’t have the desire to start your own, and now that my friends are getting older, it’s a case of “We have our own families and aren’t going to be around.” I never did acquire that sense of home and stability I always wanted, and it is something I miss a lot at the holidays.

It doesn’t help that even amongst my friends, I’ve gotten the impression I’m not so important or beloved by people I’ve let into my life over the years. I get that we’re a generation that routinely doesn’t return phone calls on time, who will answer your texts later, who will have falling-outs over Facebook or Twitter, who doesn’t fall over themselves to make time to see others when they pass through town, for whom “Can we postpone this?” has become a mantra. I sometimes think it is hard to be part of my generation, not be married or have children, and live in a very transient city if what you value are the people who are “like family” and the experiences you share with them. We all grow apart, and it’s very easy to miss the people who have distanced themselves, not out of dislike for you but because their life is just always busy.

This sense of isolation, of the world moving on without me, it makes me sad. Because when I was a little girl, I remember wanting a small house with a big tree and music and a lot of people who loved me all gathered together. Nobody explained to me that such things are only for movies.

In other news, I have a new article up at Nerdy Minds entitled So, You Want To Date A Geek?. It is far less serious or controversial than my other pieces, and hopefully shows a more light-hearted, endearing side of my personality. However, since it was published on Friday evening (the worst time to publish anything you want anyone to see), it’s gotten far less readers than my pieces normally do. Please stop by and visit, and give some feedback!

Happy November, readers! I’ll be back with some other updates and stories soon, as the holiday madness approaches. :)

I haven’t been blogging on any sort of regular basis, so today’s entry is more of a hodgepodge collection of thoughts, feelings, observations, and memories. You’ll have to forgive me if I appear to be an ADD blogger. :P I’ve been ill for almost two weeks now, and it doesn’t let me concentrate as well as I should. Needless to say, creativity has taken a back seat for now.

Today, I woke up in an emotional and contemplative mood. It struck home today that I often end up feeling like I care about a lot of people in my life so much more than they are willing to care about me. I often feel cast aside and minimized, because people want me around when I’m useful, have feelings for me when it’s challenging to ignore them, enjoy knowing me until the novelty wears off, and want my company when it’s convenient. Worse yet, they may actually wish I weren’t around most of the time, but realise I am something that must be tolerated—so I never know that someone I actually like knowing would prefer not to have to interact with me. I get that it’s the way the world works—at least three friends have spoken about this recently as it relates to their own lives—but I realise that I feel angry about this way we relate to one another in this world. The idealistic side of me cannot reconcile reality with how things should be, and because I don’t think I am so wrong on this one, I’m not sure I should have to learn.

I feel angry that people are temporary, and we’re expected to accept that of our friendships and relationships. I feel betrayed when someone I considered a friend tells others they dislike me. I feel used when someone I considered a very close friend suddenly can’t be bothered to make time for me. I feel hurt when someone who has been in my life for a long time tends to tear down my self-esteem as a result of their own unhappiness. This is just not how I treat people. I deserve better. We all deserve better when we allow someone to occupy space, time, or feeling in our lives. Our thoughts and feelings and experiences, and what we share with others, should be treated with great value and handled honestly. Everything in life these days is just so casual, that emotions are kind of a luxury.

Earlier today, in my FB posts about my 30 days of being thankful, I said I was thankful for my sensitivity..but that being said, it would be easier if I were wired a little differently. I wonder what it’s like to be the kind of person who doesn’t cry over others, but simply replaces them. I don’t think I’ve ever been that sort of person, however hard I’ve tried.

I realised today that I feel hurt, and underneath all of that, I feel angry about not being of any great importance to people who claimed to love and value and admire me. I feel angry that someone should smile and joke with me to my face, yet talk about how much they dislike me to my friends when I am not around. I feel angry because I should not be a doormat because my heart gets so easily involved in the lives of others.

Before I started blogging about that particular topic, I was working on a blog about reality TV, creativity, and why teachers and coaches are important in life. So, allow me to switch gears, and discuss a different aspect of human connection.

It’s absolutely no secret that one of my favourite (and least harmful) guilty pleasures in life is reality TV. I’m actually not into watching most of the “talent-based” competitions on TV these days, such as the Voice, America’s Got Talent, American Idol, etc. Odd for a performer, I know, but they give off such a manufactured, produced vibe. At the same time, they give the impression that performing is something everyone can do. Winning a reality TV talent show isn’t about talent quite as much as marketability, and the idea that many of the producers have about marketability is a narrow-minded, formulaic one. American Idol is a good case in point; most of the winners put out their obligatory album and were never heard from again. Many of those who did not win used the exposure as a launching pad for a career, and some unconventional contestants became marketable. I believe Jennifer Hudson has an Oscar, as well as some Grammys.

I enjoy watching Dance Moms, and the spin-off show, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. The young talent that is showcased is impressive, and the overbearing stage mothers and fathers (which are a serious part of life for anyone who begins performing before the age of 16) are often portrayed in a realistic light. Everyone wants to be famous, to be a star, if they have those performance-based gifts and inclinations. However, performing is a high-pressure environment that isn’t for those who aren’t resilient, can’t handle rejection, or have low self-esteem. These shows give an inkling of why so many young prodigies self-destruct before the age of 30, or quit whatever they do by the time they leave high school, major in accounting, and call it a day. These aren’t shows that exploit very talented young kids and neurotic parents; rather, they reflect the real world of competitive performance.

A new show premiered, which I had no intention of watching, called Chasing Nashville. Not only do I tend to not watch talent shows, but I do not care for country music. However, it drew me in, this show that’s more of a documentary about a few very different girls between the ages of 13-17, who dream of being Nashville musicians. I’ve now added it to the list of shows I watch, but something about it struck me as ludicrous.

They will show these girls singing, show they are talented, and make it obvious that they have been chosen because they are very gifted—gifted, not perfect. It is amazing how offended some gifted, untrained young people look when the feedback is “I think you could use a vocal coach”. They should all be introduced to an opera singer or a Broadway star at some point in time. While it’s arguable that having a degree in something like musical theatre or vocal performance is a great way to spend four years and $40,00-$120,000 without much to show for it in the “real world”, it’s equally ludicrous that a singer would be offended at being told he or she needs a vocal coach. Of course you do. You’re a singer. If you play piano, you have a piano teacher. If you’re a star athlete, you have a trainer. Why would you need to show someone singing badly to point out “You need a vocal coach?”. Every singer has a weakness in his or her voice, whether it be a physical issue or one that can be corrected through technique. Most people at that age have no idea how to work with their range, or that their vocal range will change and develop over time. Few know how to deal with breaks in the voice for women, or switching to falsetto for men. I know 30 year-old adults who can’t be heard above the crowd because they’ve never been taught projection.

Someone telling you that you have the talent to benefit from working with someone better than you is not an insult, but a compliment. If you’d like to be a singer, or an actor who can carry a tune, you need a vocal coach. If the pop music industry pushed this as much as professional singers elsewhere, you wouldn’t have bad singers using autotune the same way the modeling industry relies on Photoshop, and amazing singers with improper technique and smoking habits getting polyps removed at the age of 23. It is not an insult. Yet, the thing that is the most challenging and intimidating to these young girls is the idea of working with a vocal coach. A coach is, of course, just a teacher. In theory, taking a class in something you enjoy should be the least frightening thing ever. Oddly, the performer on the show who has the most natural talent is the one who breaks down in tears because she can’t handle a voice lesson.

People think that voice lessons are for people who don’t know how to sing or can’t sing, and that can be the case, if someone with no experience or ability needs to learn the skill. For the most part, voice lessons are for singers who have potential, voices that can go from good to great, or great to utterly impressive. People also think that voice lessons are simply about running scales over and over again.

However, there’s something about working with a vocal coach—or an acting coach, or having private lessons with a dance teacher, or whatever it is you do as a performer—that requires vulnerability. There may only be one other person in the room, but there’s nowhere to hide. There is no way to dress up your flaws and make them look good, or hope they will go unnoticed.

In reality, about half of every session with your vocal coach is pure silliness. You do tongue twisters, and make siren noises, and other things that make you feel incredibly stupid. Where I went to university, the practice rooms were soundproof, and you’re totally glad for that. Like many sopranos who also have a decent belt voice, I have a note where there’s a clear break between the two, and it is a problematic vocal flaw. I am very insecure about it. There are roles I could never sing because of that freaking note. I’ve done countless exercises to learn vocal flexibility and to avoid that note, but the most traumatic experience? Well, I had a vocal coach who made me yodel.

I don’t yodel. The first few times, I flat-out refused. Then I tried. I failed horribly. Not only do I not yodel, I absolutely could NOT yodel. It was painful, physically and emotionally. It was probably even more painful to listen to me try to yodel. But the biggest problem wasn’t that I couldn’t yodel, it was that I was terrified to reveal a horrible, awful, embarrassing flaw I had—even in front of one person. It was like waving a sign saying “Hey, this is why I suck”. And, for that reason, I empathise highly with this very driven perfectionist who can sing in front of a ton of people with all the confidence in the world, but can’t work with a vocal coach.

That type of insecurity is the major reason for any singer to work with a vocal coach. Everyone has insecurities, weaknesses, things that can be improved. But, for almost every performer, the most limiting factor is fear. You may think it’s an odd problem for a world that’s based on doing things most people would never do. Simply being a performer implies a lack of fear and inhibition, since more people rate “public speaking” above “death” on the list of biggest fears. But it simply isn’t true. Every performer has a weakness, a fear, an insecurity. The right vocal coach identifies where and what that is and helps to conquer that. But it is scary.

I watched the show again this week, because I was curious about the continued struggle of working with a vocal coach.The episode focused on two talented teenage girls in for voice lessons. One has a very strong mezzo voice, and can belt impressively, and knows that is a skill that wins competitions. The other has a beautiful stage presence, but a smaller lyric voice that is good, but not developed. She has neither the physical size nor vocal strength to have a large belt voice, and country music emphasizes that. The first, who captivates every audience she sings in front of, runs out of the room crying because she can’t let go of her inhibitions and work through the silly vocal exercises. The second girl is willing to do just about anything the vocal coach asks, but on stage, reverts to looking like a girl doing a decent rendition of something for a beauty pageant. The solution? The vocal coaches unknowingly set them up on a “karaoke date”.

Here’s a secret most people don’t know: Singers are afraid of karaoke. Often, professionally trained singers are downright TERRIFIED of karaoke. You don’t know what key your song will be in, what song you’ll be singing, and you have no time to rehearse. Sometimes, the crowd is silent and judgmental. Other times, they won’t shut up to listen to you. Many, many singers are absolutely petrified of karaoke because, like making silly faces or yodeling, it is unrehearsed. It can be a train wreck. It can be embarrassing. I literally stopped singing for two years because an ex-boyfriend and his friend laughed at me at karaoke. It didn’t matter that I have degrees in musical theatre and vocal performance, and until that point, would sing for anyone, anywhere. I’d been told when I wasn’t good in the past. I’d had bad performances, bad auditions—but being judged by people you will see again, when you want them to like and respect you and think you’re talented, it’s difficult. Karaoke is something that may just present your talent in the worst light ever, and nobody enjoys that. If you can get past the element of the unexpected and let go of the need to be perfect, it’s terrific fun. But, a lot of singers are as nervous–if not more so—to sing at karaoke than to audition for something.

I think it was awesome to see experienced and knowledgeable coaches that could identify performers with opposite attitudes, insecurities, personalities, stage presences, and vocal ranges, and realise that putting them together to sing “for fun”, unexpectedly, was a growing experience. However, it did not look like either of those young performers were having much fun. They were clearly just insecure and terrified. However, the experience was as much for their teachers, who saw clearly what their students excelled at, and what needed to be worked upon.

Good teachers exist to break down walls. I had a vocal teacher who worked with me only on jazz and blues music, an odd choice for someone working with a lyric soprano with a controlled and naturally ornamented voice. As it turned out, she herself had a similar voice, but had a mother who was an opera singer and a father who was a jazz musician. From her, I learned a lot about emotional expression. I never would have ended up working as a cabaret singer if she had not taken me out of that comfort zone. I had another vocal coach who would put together students she thought could learn from one another, and say “Experiment. Form a musical act”. I ended up working with a talented tenor with impeccable technique. Between us, we could sing in 7 languages and play 5 instruments. But we were about as entertaining as a cardboard box, until one day, we suddenly had an electric guitar, drums, and me belting (sometimes terribly) into a mic. Our “band” performed in front of crowds of whoever would listen to us, off and on, for 6 years.

When I was in NYC, I had a favourite vocal coach, a petite blonde woman with a voice three times her size named Yvonne. Those who have known me for a long time may remember Yvonne. She was the type of vocal coach who only worked with a certain number of students, because she developed a genuine interest and relationship with all of them. I swear, she was at every musical and revue and cabaret and opera one of her students was in, and we all adored her. Consequently, her students stayed with her a long time, and we inevitably got to know one another well. Many of us ended up performing together, completely by chance.

Arriving to see your vocal coach often means sitting and waiting for the person before you to finish his or her lesson. The guy with the time slot before me happened to be singing the role of Don Quixote in Man Of La Mancha. He was a very talented tenor who didn’t seem to need extensive work on his song, but when you’re almost performance-ready, that’s not really what your sessions are for. Yet, I seemed to arrive whenever he’d work on the key change and hit his high notes (or not), over and over and over again.

He was a friendly guy whom I (very mistakenly) concluded to be gay, and always smiled and said hello on his way out. I was working on a musical called The Fantasticks at the time, but one day, I remarked to Yvonne that I knew the title song from Man Of La Mancha well enough to be that actor’s understudy. The next week, after 10 minutes of silently singing along with Don Quixote, I went in for my lesson. Yvonne’s response was “I’m tired, and it’s been a long day. Why don’t you just sing this one?”

And, the next thing I know, I’m at the piano, belting out “I am I, Don Quixote, the lord of La Mancha…” A few weeks later, when I actually knew the song well enough to get through it, Yvonne detained this other young actor and said “Wait a minute! Alayna has something she’s been working on, and I think you can relate.”

It was one of the funniest moments, and one I will always remember. I think it’s because actors in general have a kinship–what we do is hard, and fosters insecurity on a daily basis, and not everyone gets that. Performing the song I heard my fellow student working on week after week gave me new respect for what he was doing, and how talented he was.

Yvonne was married to a man quite a bit older than her, and he ended up needing a heart transplant after a long illness. Her students all came together to put together fundraisers to help her cope, because she was almost like a mother to us (although, in reality, she was no older than I am now.) When the transplant didn’t work as well as planned, Yvonne directed a musical, Camelot, in which she cast many of her students. It was meant to be another “for the benefit of”-type productions for her husband, but the benefit was something much different. He never missed a rehearsal, even the one-on-one sessions with the actors or the deadly Sunday morning group vocal rehearsals. No matter what we did in that theatre, he was there. There were 25 of us in that show, and he talked to every single one of us extensively. I’d like to think us doing that show was of immense benefit to him, because it gave him something to love, something he could share with his wife and her students, and engaged him in a world where he was not sick and broken.

He passed away a week into the run of Camelot. It is heartbreaking to remember that day, because a theatre feels empty when the love and energy that goes into it disappears. There was nobody prouder of us on opening night, even if he couldn’t get out of his wheelchair for a standing ovation. It was a tremendous loss for everyone when he passed, but we never missed a performance. I think he would have been very displeased if we had. To this day, though, I can only hope that when I am dying, I am blessed enough to live my final days surrounded by love, family, and creative energy.

For those young artists out there who don’t understand why you need to work with a vocal coach if your voice doesn’t suck, there are so many answers. The most important one, though, is that for many people, the world of theatre is an adopted family and your coaches, your teachers, your mentors—they play a significant role in helping you grow, not just as an artist, but as a person.

The world of performance simply isn’t for those who imagine they’ll travel through life alone, with their talent, and actively pursue success. It is for those who understand how special it is to work with other talented people to build something that may exist only for a day, a week, or a month…but is there forever. I wish *that* was the lesson today’s young artists were receiving.

We live in a world where people are disposable, where people don’t say what they mean, where everything is taken so lightly—friendships, relationships, talents, emotional connections. However fabulous you are, there is another, better version waiting to replace you. Few connections are forever. And that’s simply not a world I feel comfortable in, because I think I had the honour of seeing many examples of love and friendship and dedication and respect around me, in between all the crap.

I am angry that, in our society, when it comes to what we value and how we relate, the crap seems to be winning.

I deserve much better than being anyone’s option, convenience, half-hearted friend, or person you like well enough, but not well-enough to invite to your parties because your real friends have something to say about it. I deserve better than being just another person you pay attention to when you have time and interest. I deserve better than having my work not even read because it’s long or difficult or you just don’t care that much. I deserve better than the way you call me a friend but never say one nice thing to me because it’s not your job to prop up my ego. I deserve better than to think you might actually find me charming company once in awhile, only to find out from my friends that you struggle with merely being around me.

I am fucking awesome and irreplaceable, and it pisses me off that so many people don’t see it. Maybe I’m not as insecure as I think I am. I’m just angry at a lifetime of being minimized, overlooked, valued as something less than I deserve, or told without words that I’m not as special as that prettier/smarter/sweeter friend you’d prefer to spend time with, or made to feel like I’m not good enough because you’ll only associate with me when your real friends aren’t around.

I’m old enough to know better, and to believe I deserve better. And when I look around at those who occupy space in my world and see that’s not what I’m getting, I feel hurt and pissed off and used and lied to. And I am angry when those things happen to me, and I think, well…maybe that’s just OK.

Somebody, somewhere, is bound to appreciate my fabulousness. If it isn’t you, I shouldn’t cry over it. But I do, and I can’t help it. But I’m still angry, and wonder why I never feel good enough in this world of ours. Unlike reality TV, life isn’t set up to be a competition.

When I was 19, I was in a fairly well-known musical called The Fantasticks. I’m not sure why, but the other day, I began blogging about this musical–specifically, the people I worked with, and how it affected me sense of self. It was the first time I realised the way I saw myself–both positive and negative—was not how others saw me. I only saw all the ways in which I wasn’t good enough, the ways in which other people around me were better than me. Granted, the entertainment industry is not the best place for teenagers and 20-somethings with this issue, which is almost everyone. However, there are few aspects of life that are much better. Somehow, however unique and wonderful we are, most of us end up with a sense that our adult selves are somehow never enough.

In any case, I may or may not post my theatre-related reflection another day, but in The Fantasticks, there is one female character. She is a 16 year-old girl who is the epitome of your average girl-next-door, but her spirit is rebellious. She wants pretty much every life experience there is. She delivers a brief monologue before her well-known song, in which the final line is
“Please, God, please…don’t let me be normal.”

It is not a mystery why I played this role, as it was perfectly written for a high-spirited, rebellious girl who just wanted to live an extraordinary life and be someone special. People found me endearing as this character, despite my lack of inexperienced-girl-next-door stage presence, because I really only had to be myself. I happened to find myself landing the job over some far more experienced, talented, and prettier young women, and I never knew why. I know now, and the answer is simple: authenticity is charming. In the eyes of much of the world, it is more charming than perfection. It’s a very difficult thing for someone who has a mental list of imperfections streaming at all times to make peace with, but that summer of my life was the first time I learned people would still see you, still love you, still appreciate you—even if you couldn’t be perfect.

That brings me around to the point of this post, which (no,really! Seriously!) is not about me. I love this blog, and its tagline, “Ideas For A World Out Of Balance”. I especially enjoyed a recent post,
Lies We Tell Ourselves To Be Liked
. The daily struggle so many of us engage in–to be liked, to be successful, to be accepted, to be like everyone else, to be respected, to have money, to be found attractive, to make others jealous, to climb ladders that don’t exist and think that ‘sameness’ means ‘respectability’– it all comes at a very great cost.

When I look at many of my friends, I can separate them into two different groups: one full of free-spirits who have always elected to take the “road less traveled”, and another full of those who took the “right path” and did what was expected in order to be an acceptable, respectable, and above all, successful, person in today’s society.

The irony is, I see both groups of people in my age range (mostly Gen Y-ers, but a few late Gen X-ers, as well), struggling with the same problems. The first type of person has gone through life valuing authenticity over everything else, only to end up oblivious to the fact that wearing a mask called “non-conformist” is no less authentic or free than making any other choice. The second type of person has been willing to compromise personal authenticity and freedom in order to make the choice that will be rewarded through money, status, and recognition.

Neither group seems happier than the other. Everyone’s problems sound alike. And, no matter what, few people get to be who they really want to be or live as they really want to live.

I have a few close friends who have been in my life a long time, and by and large, they are quite unlike me. Over the years, it has hurt me to see these people give away pieces of themselves. They abandon idealism for a paycheck and a corner office. They abandon romanticism for someone who is a “really suitable partner” instead of a soulmate. They abandon hobbies, dreams, visions of who they once wanted to be, because there is little time left in the grown-up world for passion. They do not post what they’d like to post about the reality of their lives on social media because they are afraid of what their bosses will see, how future employers will judge them, how their peers will judge them. They spend a lot of time living a carefully-crafted presentation called “What My 30-Year-Old Self Is Supposed To Be”.

And it hurts me to see that so many are dreadfully, and painfully unhappy. The corporate ladder-climbers feel like they’ve compromised their happiness, and aren’t nearly as successful as doing such a thing promised. The free-spirited artistic types wonder if there will ever be any value, appreciation, or stability in what they do. Those who have married and had children secretly miss being free. Those who are single and without children secretly wonder what’s wrong with them. But, when you get them all together in a group, everyone is happy, glowing, charming, the picture of “What Our Generation Is Supposed To Be”.

It is painful to me when I see someone I love change abruptly, because while people do change, a very abrupt transition usually signifies the point where someone has relinquished a bit of their uniqueness and has figured out that it’s just so much easier to do what’s expected, what everyone else is doing. There is comfort in feeling “normal”.

What people seem not to see is that giving up what would really make you feel happy and fulfilled in life for what the world tells you creates happiness and fulfillment is just another version of lies we tell ourselves to be liked, to be successful, to erase doubt and confusion. And years later, we are shocked to realise that we are not happy, not fulfilled, doubt and confusion still reign.

In some ways, I see so many people (myself included) living as prisoners of their own lives, but we are the ones who create our prisons, our limitations. We do not see ourselves the way others see us. We do not live freely. We do not create and work freely. We do not love freely. And, for all our technology and social media, we do not represent ourselves honestly.

The more people I sit and talk to in a very open, one-on-one fashion, the more I see this is a generational epidemic. We do not value our own authenticity. We do not value our own emotion. We are willing to compromise things that should never be compromised, because we are taught that colouring inside the lines and making ourselves monochrome is the only shot at success. And when we are old enough to know that success and fulfillment and happiness are different and distinct things, we often think it is far too late to do things differently. It is too late to change course, to threaten any sense of stability, to break someone’s heart, to shock the world, to reveal who we really are, what we want, what we dream of, and reveal the loving, idealistic child that lurks inside that only wants to be told he or she is accepted, loved, and good enough.

It is never too late to stop compromising. It is never too late to strip away all the carefully-crafted lies. It is never too late to post that horrible photo of you on Facebook, because nobody is beautiful all the time, and why should we spend so much time forced to pretend everyone is? All it does is create pressure to keep up, and the same feelings of inferiority almost all of us had at teenagers, looking at the perfect lives of those around us.

We lied a lot then, and we lie a lot now, and it’s not only accepted, but encouraged. If you don’t play along, you may never be liked. You may never be loved. You may never get a good job. You may always be perceived as weird, or a troublemaker, or less than respectable. You may risk being alone. You may risk not having all the material things everyone else has.

Or, you may realise you’re the happiest person you know.

I’m, of course, as hypocritical as everyone else because I’m not the happiest person I know, and I don’t always have the courage to be whoever I want to be. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of rejection. I am afraid I will always be the person who isn’t taken seriously, who isn’t special, who isn’t good enough.

And I wonder, what happened to the 19 year-old girl who felt liberated by understanding that strangers loved her because she wasn’t afraid to be herself in a world that largely is? Is authenticity something we have to sacrifice in order to grow up? Do we need to keep our mouths shut and our images perfectly maintained to be liked, to have someone fall in love with us, to be successful, to be respected? Or do we just need the courage to start being human beings?

When do we stop compromising the things that matter the most, in order to be “normal”?

“Please, God, please…don’t let me be normal.”

Many people I know complain that laziness and complacency are their enemies. “I’d get so much more done if I didn’t want to stay home and watch TV”, “I know I should try to cook more, but it’s way easier to order a pizza”, “I went to work today and still didn’t get anything done.” I can absolutely understand this feeling, but I have identified that my enemy in life isn’t being lazy or getting too comfortable with routine.

I come equipped with a built-in sense of restlessness that is rarely ever focused or satisfied. The Zen folks who talk about “Living in the moment” may quit, trying to teach me the art of being “present”. Wherever I am, I’m so often really excited about wherever I’m planning to be NEXT, while also enjoying where I am NOW.

I don’t neglect doing work because I am lazy and would rather do nothing (most of the time.) I neglect work because when I start on one project, my mind wanders, and I end up somewhere else mentally…and I would rather be anywhere but where I am, doing anything other than what I am meant to be doing. I have 70 billion ideas rolling around, and some days, if I try to focus on one, the noise of all the others makes it impossible.

It isn’t only work that is affected by restlessness. On Friday, I had a rare day with no plans, and was feeling tired, so The Guy I Am Currently Dating came over and we were just going to “hang out”. By 10 PM, I was a little bored and wondering what to do with what seemed like endless hours of free time. I have always felt guilty in my various long-term relationships, because somewhere in the back of my head, this seed was planted that “If people are really right together, they’re happy doing nothing.”. I’m a horrible person with whom to be in a relationship. After 15-20 minutes of cuddling, if we’re not doing something or talking, I start thinking about everything else in the world. I start wondering at what point it becomes not rude to want to get up. Sometimes, when I’m considering this problem, I just fall asleep.

I’ve suffered from this problem of “restlessness” ever since I was a kid. I was the one who, three days into summer vacation, was tired of “relaxing”. I was the one who’d insist on seeing and doing everything possible on family vacations, who never wanted to sit still. I drove my mother insane, because she’d happily sit on the beach watching the ocean for an hour, or chill out on a patio to “people watch”. After 20 minutes, I was over it. I wasn’t interested in watching life, I was interested in experiencing it…and when there was nothing to experience, I’d retreat into a world of imaginations. Books, television, theatre, dance—pretty much any form of self-expression and experiencing another person’s story appealed to me, when I couldn’t experience my own.

It is something I thought I’d eventually grow out of, but I haven’t. The odd thing is, I’m not a type-A person by nature. However, there are wheels in my mind that are constantly spinning. The only times this doesn’t happen are the moments when I am really 100% consumed by whatever I am doing, either creatively or activity-wise, or when I am sick and/or tired out to the point of exhaustion.

One of the largest struggles I’ve faced with being ill off and on during the past two years is that I still have the mental and spiritual energy of a teenager. Unfortunately, I do not have a body that will keep up with that. I’ve learned to make the most of things by doing everything I can do to enjoy life during the “good times”, and when the “bad times” hit, when simply riding in the car will trigger a panic attack or I can’t go out with friends without wanting to collapse, it is hard for me. Because, even when I feel at my worst, part of me just wants to break out of whatever is keeping me trapped and *GO*. “Bad times” are often accompanied by very childish outbursts of self-pity and bouts of tears, because I find it heartbreakingly unfair that I don’t feel in control of my life, and that there is no outlet for my restlessness.

It has been suggested to me throughout my life that I suffer from some form of ADD or ADHD, although this doesn’t seem to be the case (my mother took me to be tested as a kid, and I had a neurologist discuss it with me as an adult.) I am actually capable of intensely focusing on things for hours, and grow irritated quickly at any interruption. However, it is often the case that my brain is so overwhelmed by daydreams and things I’d like to do and things I *should* do and all these things that want to be expressed all at once, that I end up doing nothing at all. It’s almost as if I try to ignore the chaos, because it is too hard to organize it.

I have always wanted to live a life “bigger” than my own. I have always had this incredible need for memorable experience, as often as possible, in the way that only someone who has a strong awareness of the inevitability of mortality early in life develops. I am often panicked by the idea of death, not because death in itself might be the most frightening experience in the world, but because I don’t want to run out of time. There is so much world, and so many experiences, and so many people….and such a small amount of time. Especially as you grow older, or start struggling with health, this becomes so much more obvious.

I once had an ex-boyfriend tell me, when he was tired of me looking morose and bored because he was so busy working that we couldn’t go out and do anything, that only boring people were bored in life, because there was so much fascinating about life. For me, the most fascinating thing about the world was being a part of it, interacting with people, going new places, having new experiences, forming new relationships. This ex, who grew up as a very self-sufficient, responsible introvert, could not understand why I was frustrated to the point of tears at being told that my restlessness should be contained and directed towards solitary, intellectual, and creative pursuits. I grew terribly unhappy (and consequently, became a very difficult person with whom to spend time.) because I found it couldn’t. The more my restlessness was constrained, the more it took over everything; I would feel frustrated with and hate everyone and everything.

A decade later, I’m still battling demons having to do with restlessness. The work I do is monotonous, repetitious, and easy. There is no reason I should not be incredibly productive, other than I find myself staring at the computer screen, thinking of other times in my life, other places, other people, other dreams. I have never learned how to enjoy the mundane, or at least, to tolerate it. I’ve read anecdotes about many creative people working in extremely dull, tedious jobs because the nature of a repetitive job helped boost creativity or clarify highly intellectual problems. This is not me. My mind seems to take any opportunity to escape, mentally, if not physically.

The worst thing is when I have all the time in the world and someone asks what I want to do, and I just don’t know. All the answers are unrealistic. I want to do something different, exciting, something that engages body, mind, and spirit 100%. I want to do something I’ve never done before. I want to meet someone who may turn my life upside down. I want to experience really powerful emotions as often as possible. I want to be not here, because I’ve grown tired of here for now, but I’ll probably want to come back in a little while. The kind of life I want requires a lot of money, a lot of robust health and energy, and plenty of willing partners-in-crime. I lack all of the above.

I have packed a LOT of life experience, positive and negative, into the first part of my life. I always thought by now, I’d be happy with the simple things, appreciate living a calm and quiet life, see the value in “alone time”.

Nope. I’m still ready to go. But I know that the $1.25 in my pocket won’t get me terribly far, and at some point, I’ll have to take my medication and want a nap.

It is, indeed, a conundrum. I wonder at what point restlessness will turn into internal stillness and peace. People told me that once I turned 30, a shift would happen, and I’d desire this more. It was true, for about two years.

Now I’m ready to do things, experience things, feel things, affect the lives of others, explore new places, and generally turn the world upside down with the force of being that is Hurricane Alayna. I am ready for more dopamine and all that good stuff. I like when my somewhat fragile body is lying in an exhausted heap, but on the inside, I still want to “go go go”, because it reminds me I am not dead yet. *laughs*

I think I’d rather be lazy and complacent than waking up thinking, “What cool experiences are we going to have today?”…because the answer is usually, “We only do things on Friday, and today is Monday.” :P

On some level, I never stopped being 23. I just drink a little less, my life is much less complicated, and sadly, make less money. My spirit, however, is as inexhaustible as ever. I just wish it wanted to write about lawyers and plastic surgeons on a regular basis. :P