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’ve been short on blogs for the New Year, and I’m not sure why. It’s likely the same reason that I’ve felt inexplicably sad, something that started around the holidays, and has not lifted. That sadness has made me feel more introverted and less excited about the idea of talking to people, especially in today’s world, which seems to have a motto along the lines of “If you don’t have anything happy to say, keep your damn mouth shut.”.

I suppose I have reasons to feel sad, and yet, then again, I don’t. None of my problems are so big that they should cause a frustrating cascade into the world of loneliness and depression. Nothing has happened to make me just want to turn on the electric blanket and hide there until the day comes when I wake up feeling happy.

When I was in my adolescent years, I was particularly moody. I was never difficult enough to cause any real problems, or sad enough that feeling “bummed” got in the way of everything I was supposed to be focused on. Yet, there was this awareness that behind everything I did, even “happy” things, I did not feel like a happy person.

I remember talking to my mother about this, who would constantly hound me about my sad face and hiding away in my room for hours. It was not pleasing to her that I seemed to be doing everything “right”, and yet, I wasn’t a happy person. She would ask what I was sad about, and I’d always say, “I don’t know”. Because, really, I never did. I would feel sad simply because I didn’t feel happy, and I wanted to feel happy. The response was, “That’s immature and stupid. People don’t just feel sad whenever they don’t feel happy.”

I didn’t understand this, because I did feel sad for no other reason than not having any particular reason to feel happy. I never learned that most of the time, emotionally well-adjusted people can feel “fine”, “OK”, and “blah”. There was really no middle state of being for me. It seemed very simple: sadness is what you feel when there’s no reason to be happy or excited or look forward to the future or feel invigorated by some adventure or achievement. Perhaps, biologically, sadness is to me not actual sadness, but how I feel when nothing happens to create that endorphin rush that makes you all excited about life, or something you’re doing, or falling in love, or traveling to a new place, or having a once-in-a-lifetime romance, or achieving something you’ve always wanted to conquer. It is possible that I am an endorphin junkie.

As a teenager, this way of looking at the world earned me a trip to the psychiatrist, to see if I was depressed. My family has a major history of depression, specifically bi-polar disorder, so it was a concern. A number of my aunts and uncles and cousins suffer from it. My mother had a strange ability to detach from her emotions, and make herself feel better with food and smoking, which has contributed to her constant lifetime of yo-yo dieting. My grandfather, who is 90, will tell you that nobody ever promised life would be happy, and the secret to getting by is hard work every day, and two Manhattans at the end of it. My father, whom I don’t know much about as a person, is a narcissist with a temper and pretty dramatic mood swings. The only interest he’s ever had in anyone is the way in which that person can validate him or make him feel happy or important. Needless to say, life in my family wasn’t full of stability and sunshine. So, when my mother asked the psychiatrist if I needed Prozac because I wasn’t happy, he said “No. You’re dealing with a highly sensitive personality who is capable of feeling the emotions of others as if they were her own, and she’s surrounded by negative emotions. You need family therapy.”

My family didn’t do therapy, and it turned out that a treatment for “feeling bummed” was to move away, which I did. Yet, my “moodiness” followed. It was less pronounced as I got older, but I would often feel sad “for no reason”.

An ex-boyfriend, who believed in such things, noticed that whenever I felt sad “for no reason”, a difficult life event or loss would follow. There was always a “something bad” after one of these moods would hit, and he chalked my moods up to the combination of my habit of feeling the feelings of others, and an intuitive, almost psychic nature. He took everything in life pretty seriously, and although I don’t believe my “unhappy spells” are attached to the premonition of something bad happening, it often does seem to have coincidental timing that way.

Last year, while going through my illness, I saw many doctors. Some medical doctors believed there was nothing wrong with me, and it was all in my head. I was anxious. I was depressed. I was bi-polar. It turns out, I was just sick, and anxiety is a common side effect of being sick with something that turns your world upside down.

I went to see a neurologist/psychiatrist, a very intelligent guy who had knowledge of your brain from both a physical and mental perspective, but lacked any ability to bond with patients whatsoever. It was like having Sheldon as your doctor, which turned out to be a strangely reassuring thing for someone who was having anxiety issues that, decades ago, would have been called “hysteria”. (And, strangely, I received the decades-old solution for unhappy women with first-world problems: Valium. ) I asked him if I was depressed. I told him about my habit of falling into moods where I’d feel sad simply because I didn’t feel happy, and that people told me these extremes were not normal. I told him people thought I might have bi-polar disorder, even borderline personality issues. He did a lot of tests on my brain and bloodwork, talked to me, and said “You’re not depressed. You’re very intelligent. You’re anxious because you’re receiving answers that don’t seem to make sense, and being diagnosed with ailments you don’t have. It’s tough to be smarter than your doctors.”

He assured me that all my brain functions were fine, that I was relatively emotionally stable, that I had the right amounts of seratonin, norepenephrine, and dopamine in my body, and didn’t need chemicals to mess with them. I just needed to chill out. He didn’t even suggest I find a therapist to help me work through anything that might be bothering me…not because it wasn’t a good idea, but because I think going to that doctor was like going to see Dr. House for your flu. There was no challenge for him, because I was “normal”.

So, I learned it’s “normal” to feel sad just because you don’t feel happy, and to only feel genuinely happy when something different, exciting, and life-changing was going on. It’s “normal” to be an endorphin junkie who thinks too much and feels too much. Yet, I realise perfectly well it is not normal, because most of those around me are not like that.

I have been sad, and I have some tangible reasons to feel sad. Over the past month or so, I’ve lost some friendships I really valued, and because I care too much about other people, that hurt a great deal. Since November, my circle of friends and acquaintances has seen 7 people pass away unexpectedly, and dealt with a suicide attempt. The nation has dealt with the shock and tragedy of realising you can go into a public place, and not make it out alive, simply because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t have the time, money, or good health to spend the holidays with friends and family elsewhere. I didn’t have any of those people wish to visit *me*. I spent the holidays feeling forgotten, unloved, insignificant, and generally sorry for myself. I’ve wondered why it is that people don’t like me, why I am so temperamental, why I am moody, why I get attached to people when I know I shouldn’t, why I trust people despite the two million reasons I have not to, why I feel peripheral to the lives of everyone around me. I’ve spent time wondering what happened to all the endorphins that made me want to dance around my house every time I thought of the exciting possibilities life had to offer. Am I now so old that possibilities and spontaneity and unforeseen romance and unplanned adventure are no longer meant to be facets of my life?

There is, of course, the possibility that I am just SAD. I am greatly deficient in sunlight and Vitamin D, two indications that I may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’ve always been SAD in the Winter, but learned to overcome it by traveling and filling my life with friends and parties and fun. This year, that didn’t happen. I didn’t travel. Christmas Eve, I fought with my boyfriend and ended up in tears. Christmas Day, I spent with people I barely know. New Year’s Eve, I was in by 9 PM, and fought with my boyfriend and cried until 11:45, when I watched Times Square and wished I was there…the same way I did when I was a little kid who longed for a bigger, more exciting, more glamourous world.

Maybe I am sad because I still wish for those things, and despite all my worldly adventures, I never found them…at least not in a way that allowed for both adventure and security, for being free AND having close relationships with people in my life. But I think that I have allowed my world to become too small, and while some of my limitations are of my own creation, it doesn’t mean I like feeling limited. It is hard to find friends and family who understand, because most people don’t have that same sort of restless and curious spirit that I do, one that’s always looking for new ways to “feel alive”.

There’s a certain feeling I get every time the car or bus or plane allows me to see the skyline of a major city, especially if I’m there to visit people I care about and wish I could see more frequently. It is something I don’t feel often, but it’s akin to the same feeling I’d always have before stepping onto a stage and seeing a room filled with people. It says, “This is the real you, the one that feels alive and energised and ready to take on the world.”

I want *that* feeling more often, and I suspect the lack of that is what makes me feel sad “for no reason”. I have always had a spirit that wants something bigger than my life, that wants epic romance and adventure and stories I will tell for years to come. It may get me into difficult situations, it may make me impulsive and irresponsible, it may make me a horrible person with whom to attempt a relationship, it may turn my world upside down now and then…but I really like it, and I don’t have that in my life here, not too often.

I think I need a partner-in-crime who thinks and feels the way I do. All of my friends are far more “settled”, far more introverted, far less likely to embrace the unknown. There are too many things I don’t do anymore, simply because I don’t have the people around me to do them with—and, well, I miss that, too. This isn’t New York or London, where you can simply get on a train and have your own adventure. Here, you need cabs or a driver to go anywhere, which is expensive, and even if your friend wants to go out, you can’t just drink and dance all night long because you can’t get home without a car. Perhaps if I lived back in the city here, I’d be a little happier, which is a goal I’d like to see happen in 2014. Perhaps I just need more money, because this is the sort of place where being financially self-sufficient means you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, because you can afford to have a driver take you.

Yet, somehow, I just don’t know. I know I am a city girl who has been stuck in a small town for too long, and I am independent spirit who has been too reliant on others, yet simultaneously felt too alone, for too long. I can’t even pick up and travel for the weekend, something I once enjoyed doing, because being abandoned by my roommate means I have no pet sitter…and I simply can’t afford pet sitting whenever I don’t want to be at home. I hate the feeling of “limitation”. If there are excitement endorphins left in my system, the burden of obligation quickly squashes them.

So, I have not been blogging because I’ve been sad. Also, every time I open my mouth, I seem to make a new enemy, so it’s safer just to talk to myself.

I want to have an adventure. In fact, this year, I wanted to have 12 of them. I don’t know if I see that as a possibility.


newyears2013

Well, somehow, we all managed to make it through 2012, and it’s a New Year. Here in Atlanta, 2013 is starting off the way so many Atlanta days do: it is grey and rainy, and because it’s winter, it’s colder than I would like it to be. It’s the type of day where you plan not to leave the house and to do absolutely nothing, which is what I plan on doing.

2012 wasn’t the easiest year for me, but it was one of small improvements rather than major setbacks and that’s definitely a positive. It was a year where I needed to be consistently reminded, as a good friend likes to tell me, “Two steps forward and one step back still leaves you moving forward, one small step at a time.”


new-years-eve-2013

At the end of 2011, I had my tarot cards read. At that point in time, my major life concerns centered around health and money, yet the tarot card reader told me the focus of 2012 would not be on either of those. She indicated that 2012 would be a year of “pause”; one of self-reflection and healing and thinking about myself and my relationships, and what it is I really want out of life.

That, of course, was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear, “You’re going to get better in no time, you’re going to have enough money to live a comfortable life, you’re going to find the type of relationships and friendships you want in your life.” And, indeed, much of 2012 seemed incredibly frustrating because, for me, it was defined by inertia. All around me, 2012 was the year of people falling in love, having babies, getting married, getting great new jobs, moving to new cities, winning honours and recognitions for what they do, stepping outside their comfort zone…and I felt so often stuck, and unhappy. It isn’t pleasant to feel as if you’re watching life move on without you.

Yet, in 2012, I *did* start to get better. If you asked me a year ago what today would be like, I’d tell you I didn’t think I would be here. The symptoms of my illness were that physically and emotionally disabling, I really didn’t see myself recovering: and if I did, I’d never again be the adventurous and passionate and high-spirited person I once was, a realisation that was just as painful. I felt like I suffered a loss that couldn’t ever be rectified.

Of course, like all losses, you slowly learn to adjust and live your life differently. The past year has been filled with loss, really. The passing of two very well-loved and special people in my own little Universe, the random tragedies that are all around us, friends being diagnosed with difficult illnesses—it’s hard not to see loss and contemplate mortality often. The past year has been highly difficult on my relationship. The Guy I Am Currently Dating tells me I’ve changed, that I don’t like him anymore, that the way I communicate with him doesn’t make him feel positively. Yet, from my perspective, I feel like I’m always walking on eggshells, where doing the wrong thing is cause for him to speak to me in a tone of voice that is mean, sarcastic, and condescending. It might be text messaging when he’s around, or paying a bill late and getting a late fee, or saying something twice in an attempt to be helpful, or losing something I should have not lost, or running late to an event, or not showing the right emotional reaction. It seems almost anything can trigger these arguments, which turn into arguments because I refuse to be spoken to in that way, and I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who will sit and glare at me whenever I’ve done something that doesn’t meet expectations. I have to stand up for myself, even though there are usually horrible fights involving yelling and crying and just wanting to disappear. It reminds me too much of how I grew up to feel comfortable and positive to me. I will remember that 2012 is the year Christmas Eve was ruined by this communication impossibility, and so was New Year’s Eve.

I don’t believe I’ve changed. I think he is angry and resentful towards me and it comes out in the way he treats me, quite often. But I can’t change to make him happy, and I can’t spend all my time trying to be perfect or to mollify someone into liking me. I do feel like it shouldn’t be this hard, and I am so sad that it’s taken 4 years to figure out the person in my life is capable of—and will—treat me in the one way I absolutely can’t take: the dysfunctional way in which my family communicates. Obviously, I am equally to blame; he is angry and feels hurt and wants me to be someone different than who I am, someone closer to what he imagines is right for him. He tells me this is not the case, but a more logical, introverted person who is by nature more relationship-oriented might be what it takes for him to find someone who “gets” him, and vice versa. I don’t think we want the same things the long run; I want to leave Atlanta, and he does not. I believe he’s a naturally monogamous individual, and I am not. I need a large circle of friends and acquaintances to be happy, and he does not. He is a nice person, and I think he cares greatly about me: but for some reason, he’s stopped remembering why he likes me…or stopped expressing it.

I feel like I’ve been in this relationship before, and the problem isn’t ever really that I have changed. It’s that I haven’t, when someone else, deep down, expected that I would. I’ve started to pick up on signs that he is acting in an insecure manner about my wanting to have close relationships with other people in my life, something that never occurred in the past. My friendships are very valuable to me—I consider a few of them to be of equal importance to any relationship I’ve ever had—-and I have always been that sort of person. I asked The Guy I Am Currently Dating to give me examples of how I’ve changed in the past year, but everything he mentioned is something I’ve always done, and all the ways in which I make special time and effort in my life for those who matter to me, I do for him, as well. Somehow, he doesn’t feel that way, or doesn’t feel appreciated…and it makes me feel a little like me *not* changing is an issue for him. Or, perhaps it’s simply that he’s changed, and sees me and our relationship differently now.

Either way, I don’t want my life to be defined by conflict and fear of earning someone’s disapproval, because they will visibly withdraw any positive feeling from you, speak to you in a tone designed to make you feel like something on the bottom of someone’s shoe, and if you fight back, you’re starting an argument. I also don’t want to be the cause of someone always feeling bad and unloved and insecure, just because I am who am, and that isn’t naturally compatible with who that person is. It’s always been an issue in our relationship, but it used to be one that happened once every few months. Now it seems to happen every other week. The fact that it happened an hour before 2012 ended—well, I just don’t know that I can spend another year with that same source of anxiety and unhappiness in my life. I want to be loved, but more than that, I want to be understood. I know there are people who can tolerate my presence in the world, who understand my sense of humour and how I view relationships, who empathise with the tough road I’ve traveled, and accept me as a flawed human being. I know I am capable of offering that in return. Maybe neither of us is a bad person….we just don’t bring out the best qualities in one another, and as hard as it is to admit something isn’t working, it’s harder to imagine spending a lifetime in a relationship that makes both people feel badly on a regular basis.



champnye
I feel the same way about friendships in my life. As much as it’s hurt me, I’ve had to realise some people aren’t right for me anymore.We don’t hang out simply because they’d rather not hang out with me. In 2012, I was greatly hurt by some people I trusted and gave second chances, despite better wisdom, and paid a pretty hefty price. I’ve come to realise loyalty and knowing someone will always be there for you and be honest with you, no matter what, is the greatest attribute you can find in any friendship. Yet, while I’ve had to go through the sadness and anger of losing people who were once important to me, I’ve also come to expect more from my friendships. I’ve taken the time to really know different types of people, many of whom have been somewhere in my extended friend circle for years, yet not terribly important in my every day life. The fact that two or three of those people have become important in my everyday life has meant a lot to me, even if I had to take chances or face uncomfortable personal issues to allow those people in my world. I think that 2012 was the year that “friendship” was redefined in my world, and reminded me that what I look for in those meaningful friendships differ very little from what I look for in a meaningful relationship. It’s a lesson I wish I’d learned a decade ago, or I’d possibly have taken a very different life journey.

During 2012, it didn’t occur to me that my health was improving. I still couldn’t lose weight, largely due to the medication I still have to take, which affects my self-esteem on a daily basis. I still couldn’t go shopping, or sit in the booth next to the neon sign at Dagwood’s. Yet, all of the sudden, I’d be out at a party and notice that not only was I dancing in flashing lights, but hadn’t worn my sunglasses all night. I took multiple trips to new places by myself, and by the end of December, was sitting in Steak & Shake and neon diners with friends. I went into stores by myself, took the city bus alone for the first time since my illness, and am able to walk more than a mile. Other people have told me they can see a difference, and that makes me happy. The doctors told me I’d never be cured, but within 2-3 years, my symptoms would be manageable. It means a lot to me that about 14 months after getting a diagnosis, I am getting parts of my life back.

I crossed things off my bucket list. I published my first book of poetry, and while I don’t flatter myself that anyone cares, it makes me happy that I’ve done something I’ve always wanted to do. I got up in front of people at Write Club and not only entertained people without being overwhelmed by dizziness, but won my round via the applause of people I never met. Later, I came to meet some of those people, and wished I knew people like that existed in Atlanta 10 years ago.



nyechampagne
I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions, but I know there are some things I need to focus on in 2013. I need to be a healthier, more independent person. I need to find a job I’m passionate about, or at least have some ability to stick to without getting fired. They always say “Do what you love, and the money will follow”, but what I truly love is having adventures and life experiences that require money. I like enjoying life, helping others enjoy life, and creating or doing things for which I might one day be remembered. I’m not terribly practical or work-motivated, I suppose, and never have been. I’ve never had any idea what my career path might me, and honestly, I still don’t. However, to be self-sufficient, I need money, which means I need a career path and self-discipline. I really feel like that’s something that should be of primary focus for me in 2013. All the goals I have that are centred around me, and not relevant to other people in my life, are goals that require me to have a lot more money than I have in order to be happy. I just don’t see the path right now.

I’d like to meet more people, and spend more time with those who are important to me. Of course, working a set schedule can really interfere with my freedom to do that, but without money, you can’t afford to do that…so there’s a Catch-22. Maybe I’m rather dumb for being the only person who doesn’t approach running a Meetup as a business venture. I’d like to publish another book. If I start now, just by writing a page a day, I’d have a novel in a year. Yet, we all know how tragically bad I am at that sort of long-term focus and self-discipline.

I am not going to the tarot reader this year, but the Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a set of “faery Oracle” cards, and I am going to do a reading today, to see what the cards predict for the next year of my life.

I have a sudden desire to start cleaning things and throwing things away, just to get rid of all the junk and clutter and baggage in my space, and eliminate all the negative energy that’s still taking up space in this apartment. However, I’ll probably just eat lunch and watch a movie.

Happy 2013 to everyone out there, wherever you may be. I hope the next year brings you much love and happiness and prosperity!!