I thought this was really beautiful. It’s the kind of thing we all need to hear. It’s the kind of thing some of us need to put on the mirror when we get up in the morning, or on the wall so we can stare at it when someone undeserving and lacking in understanding of us makes us cry and feel permanently mired in a sense of loneliness and isolation.

I was reminded how, a few weeks back, I was telling a friend about another friend’s apartment, and how this space—though incredibly tiny and minimalistic by my standards (the bedroom would probably function as a walk-in closet for me)—feels like home to me. Some of that is simply the warm and fuzzy memories I’ve associated with the place, and the person to whom it belongs, but another part of it is that it radiates positive vibes. You feel love in that space. You feel that the person who lives there spends a lot of time surrounding himself with love and life and being present, in the moment, as often as possible. I envy that, because my own space does not feel that way. I think it’s because I live alone, and for the past two years, have lived with a roommate with whom I tried, but could not have a real and meaningful friendship.

However, for the most part, none of my spaces have ever completely felt that way, not perhaps since college. Feeling the presence of others, the presence of love, the presence of energy that is supportive and meaningful..it’s something important to me in defining “home”. I think it’s why I’m known to send little “care packages” to friends who live far away and I see too infrequently, usually consisting of a special book or journal or card or piece of artwork I’ve created. They are trinkets that are meaningless, and to some people, merely additional clutter. But, to people like me, they are a way to insert a feeling of love and peace into their surroundings.

I remember, when I first was able to afford my own apartment, I was excited…and at the same time, terribly lonely and isolated, even though I lived in the center of the city, surrounded by many choices for socialization or simply going for a walk in an urban atmosphere (something I really miss these days.) In order to make the place feel special, the first thing I moved in was a photograph of myself and my boyfriend at the time, my favourite book, and a butterfly candle a special friend had given me the last time we saw one another. It was my way of saying “This space may not be fancy, but it’s filled with love, and it’s mine.”

In any case, I shared with a friend of mine how peaceful and at home I felt in my older friend’s tiny apartment, and how in many ways, despite the unmanageable lack of space for someone as chaotic and expansive as myself, I felt so much freer there than in my own space. On my friend’s mirror is a piece of paper, a list of affirmations like the one I posted above. I don’t usually go in for affirmations—it’s a little too self-help for me— but this one, I always remember, because one of the things it says is “Remember that there are at least three people in your life who love you enough to sacrifice their life for yours.”

Somewhere, in that packed-but-not-cluttered small space, there is a copy of my favourite book, with a personal note left for that friend I see rarely, but never forget. As soon as I open the door, knowing that makes me feel at home.

For those of you who have been my friend for a long time and wonder why I send you random crap in the mail…well, that is why. It makes me happy to think that one day, you’ll come across a piece of me I’ve left behind in your world, and it will remind you that you are loved, and special, and always occupy a space in another person’s thoughts…even if it’s just little old me.

Yep, I’m most certainly an odd and sentimental one, which isn’t for everyone. But, once in a while, someone really gets it and is touched by that…and I enjoy kindred spirits.

“If you ever feel that you are no longer important to someone… then leave their life silently.”~ Anonymous

I wasn’t going to blog about this, because it’s a relatively small and unimportant matter, in the grand scheme of things, and is a situation that’s somewhat personal, besides. However, I found it was something that upset me in a way that I simply couldn’t let go of the way I wanted to…and it upset my emotional balance all evening, and consequently, how other people felt about spending time with me. In short, it made me really, really sad, and I’m not even sure why it hit home as hard as it did.

I have a friend who has been in my life for some time, only recently, after quite a number of years, we took the time to meet face-to-face. Before that, he’d always been the sort of person who’d been content to be my friend at somewhat of a distance. A naturally introverted person with a pretty rich inner world and a very busy life aside from that, he’s never been the type to call me up to gossip about our lives, and if I were looking for the kind of person to remind me of my importance on a regular basis, I’d naturally feel hurt by this friend, because he’s the type that forgets to send an e-mail for a week, or two, or four, or eight.

Of course, whenever we did communicate, I always got the sense that underneath our many difference, there was a complex and unique level of connection…and since every letter seemed to mention “I’m sorry for not communicating more often”, I took it as a sign that I was someone he wished to get to know better. I even took it as a sign that in some way, I was worth escaping from an introverted and self-sufficient world to spend time with, which he did, although neither of us were certain we’d get along…at all.

We did indeed get along, in a way that led to a more heartfelt, interesting connection than I’d anticipated. I’m not an inexperienced girl when it comes to people, the ways of the world, and seeing the parts of people and their inner worlds they don’t typically share with others. I saw in this friend someone I felt an inexplicable connection to, despite a myriad of superficial differences—whether that connection is a sign of simple romantic attraction, a meaningful friendship, or someone who has been put in my life for a purpose, I do not know—but I know that connection when it shows up (and it doesn’t often), and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been wrong about the existence of that connection. I also know when that connection is reciprocated, if not understood, and there really doesn’t need to be much conversation about that. People just intuitively sense how others feel about them, I suppose, even if it’s illogical and confusing and makes little sense. The “why” and the nature of human connections are harder to figure out, but their existence is fairly simple.

Anyhow, my response to all this was to react in the way I’d react to anyone I’d been friends with at a distance, clicked with, and realised we should spend time getting to know one another: by communicating more frequently. Unfortunately, since this friend lives at quite a distance from me, is too busy to screw around on Facebook all day and rarely uses it, doesn’t reply to e-mails in a timely fashion, and has a schedule that precludes long, in-depth phone conversations, it left me with one of my favourite and most adaptable ways of becoming closer friends with someone: text.

A few weeks ago, we had a rather heated discussion (re: argument) about communication, which ended in me overreacting and feeling rejected, because I received a rather sharply worded letter about how this friend simply didn’t have the time or emotional availability required for the whole “getting to know you better”, communication thing. The letter wounded me so deeply that I briefly considered simply dismissing any possibility of anything past a casual, once-a-month friendship, and cutting off communication. Fortunately, when I expressed myself and my feelings, my friend sent me back a more emotionally-oriented explanation of what he was trying to say, something I could relate to. This led to a series of communications and rather vulnerable, emotional conversations about ourselves and our lives, and on my end, I saw as even greater evidence that, deep down, I’d met someone who truly wanted open, meaningful, and sensitive connection with others…despite an outward appearance that might point to the contrary. The more I connected with this friend, the more I saw how much we had in common on a deep and internal level, and not just the differences existing on the everyday lifestyle level. Again, I received feedback from my friend that indicated he also saw this, and was both pleased and confused by the dichotomy of feelings evoked by that kind of friendship.

Somewhere along the line, we reached a truce. We agreed we both had broken pieces in terms of how we communicate with others that could possibly destroy not only any possible friendship between us, but likely affected other friendships and relationships in our lives. We agreed that I would cut him some slack and not assume that not hearing from someone every day means they don’t like me, are abandoning me, or have lost interest in knowing me. In return, he would work on being more open and communicating and taking the time out to truly connect, because it’s an important part of life.

This worked for about two or three weeks. I agreed not to text him at work when he pointed out it was disruptive, or when he was sleeping, or to be overly clingy and lack understanding about the need for focused, introverted time, which meant I might not get a response to a text or a call that day. On his part, he acknowledged that me opening myself up and trusting him enough to want to make a space for him in my world and my life, and doing that the only way I know how—via communication—was indeed a special gift, and one he felt hurt by not appreciating enough, letting me know that getting to know one another better and “spending time together”, so to speak, was important for him, too.

Today, things kind of blew up, and there was an unpleasant exchange of texts that again led me to feel hurt and rejected and as if the gift I was offering was not only something not of value to him, but one he clearly did not want and was returning unopened. This shocked me because, quite frankly, I’d thought I’d understood that not only was this friend attracted to me on some level, but also felt a connection with me that was both intimidating and intriguing.

I see that it happened because we both failed. Neither of us followed through on the promises we made, on the ground rules that we established that said “This is what’s going to work to help our friendship grow”. I naturally fell back into my old habits of texting whenever I felt like it (although I did try not to do so during work hours), and because things seemed different, in that my friend would not only answer my texts but communicate and have long discussions with me—sometimes about important stuff, sometimes about nothing—-I began to assume the friendship was, in fact, becoming more comfortable to him. I understood that I was dealing with someone who didn’t need my level of communication, but it really seemed as if my friend were trying to bridge that gap, the same way I was trying by being more respectful of his time and obligations.

However, at the end of this week, things seemed to go awry. My friend stopped communicating, for days, and of course it didn’t take long before I started to take it personally. He let me know that he was very busy with other obligations, and at one point, even apologised for not being around—something I think is probably not normal for him to do. Yet, although I understood, I seemed to focus on the fact that not only was I being ignored, I was getting a different vibe from my friend’s sparse communication.

I felt as if something had suddenly become different, as if this person I felt comfortable growing closer to backed away—and like all intuitive people, I’m not sure I’m not right about that—-and like all people with abandonment complexes, I freaked out and felt abandoned.

Of course, I tried to mask this with sarcastic humour, and my friend instead accused me of being confrontational. I didn’t intend to be, but being an equally intuitive person, he likely detected the hurt feelings and fear lurking underneath the snarky comments. Somehow, things escalated into him feeling like something was wrong with him for his inability to make me happy with the communication he was offering, which then hurt me that he was so hurt. As a result, I immediately moved into abandonment mode, accused him of being disinterested in any sort of meaningful friendship with me, and using all the typical things you’d encounter in ending a relationship (“I’m just going to walk away now, because it’s for your own good; I make you sad and I don’t want that”) and the counter, (“We can still be friends though, right?”)—with someone you weren’t even involved with, ever, to boot. It became upsetting, distracting, dramatic, and in the time it took us to have this text fight, we could have had a lovely, uninterrupted 30 minute phone chat about something that left us feeling positive about each other and ourselves, rather than fighting about communication.

I still have this odd feeling that something happened to cause my friend to create an emotional distance I didn’t expect and I responded to in an overly sensitive way. Perhaps it is a “me” related thing—perhaps he finally read a regrettable piece of correspondence I’d sent after our first fight over communication and freaked out, perhaps it’s because I told him I was planning to stop by and visit on my way up to see my family and friends in the Northeast (something he seemed pleased to hear, but people are complex and difficult.), or perhaps he simply decided he’d had enough and needed AlaynaFreeTime. Perhaps it’s something related to work, or difficulties with another friendship or relationship in his life. But there was a specific point when I felt something change, and because that scared me, I couldn’t just let it go. I should have, especially if it was an emotional misperception on my part. But, this idea that this new friend in my life wasn’t yet someone I could trust not to disappear on me—either literally or emotionally—or withdraw to the point where sending me a “checking in” letter once a month was the extent of interest he had in knowing me; well, that idea is powerful and pervasive when it’s been a hurtful part of your past.

I understand that we both failed…both in communicating with one another and in working to understand one another, and to help one another overcome certain trust issues and insecurities.

I said to someone recently that usually,when people who care about one another fight, it becomes about everything except exactly what you want and mean to say.

What I meant to say to my friend this week was this: “I understand you’re really busy with life and overwhelmed, and I appreciate you taking the time to tell me that, because you’re not accountable to me in any way, and that choice shows me you care. Yet, you’ve been more emotionally distant than usual, and I have this weird feeling that you’re withdrawing back into your own little world, which makes me feel scared of being abandoned.”

Instead, I didn’t say those things. I didn’t say “thank you” for making the effort to try, which might seem like such a minor thing to me, but isn’t at all to someone like my friend for whom communication isn’t a daily necessity. Instead, I hid behind annoyingly snarky messages about his unavailability in hopes that he’d reach out and connect with me, say “This is how I’m feeling and what’s going on, and it’s not personal…and if it is personal, here’s why.” Instead, I made someone I cared about feel inadequate and unappreciated and unaccepted for who he is—which couldn’t be further from the truth. And, of course, rather than opening up more, this seemed to get the reaction of him shutting down, backing away from me, realising it was just easier to dismiss things by saying “We’re broken people” and “We’re really different, and look at close friendships differently” than to really talk.

And, in that way, my friend failed a little bit, too. It takes two people to connect, and when things went awry, I put myself out there in an emotional way that went largely ignored and disregarded. He retreated into his safe, comfort zone where someone getting too close or demanding too much wasn’t an issue, and there wasn’t anyone to let down or feel harangued by. Rather than remembering, “Alayna is opening up to me and attempting to know me in a way that is meaningful and flattering, and that is a gift that not too many people freely give”, he only saw demands and inconveniences and expectations he couldn’t fulfill—-something that I’d suspect likely reminded him of other friendships and relationships in his life where that was in play, and reminded him of other times he wasn’t understood or accepted. In fact, after apologising to me for being too “broken” to communicate in the way I—and many people—need, I felt the need to hug this friend, and remind him that he was just as he was supposed to be. He thanked me for accepting him, which I found odd—only moments early, I responded in a very emotional way because I felt judged, when he pointed out, “Most people would do this, instead of what you do…”. I felt it necessary to give him something I didn’t feel from him, which perplexed me..but, like I said, I don’t always understand feelings. They just *are*. I was very hurt, but his reaction made me feel bonded and protective, all at once. Perhaps I have a nurturing side to me, after all.

I may be really, really wrong…but despite the really unpleasant, hurtful conversation, I still feel like my friend is someone I know and see and understand, deep down. I can’t always express that when my personal insecurities get in the way, and I hide behind drama and histrionic outbursts, and the old standby, “I’m walking away so you can realise how important I am when I’m gone.” At the same time, I think he has a fairly deep insight into the person I am, the person a few layers deeper than most people know—but when something stresses him out or scares him or overwhelms him, he retreats into this very logical mode that can sometimes border on hostile (or maybe just for an emotional person like me.). I wish that he could communicate with me *before* that happens, to speak openly about thoughts and feelings and concerns and not just while we’re having an argument and hurling around all the statements about what we don’t like about ourselves, or one another. Because I know we are actually fond of one another a great deal—and we both like ourselves enough to get by. ;)

I know and understand enough about people to know that both my friend and I use well-developed defense mechanisms on a regular basis, two different tactics that have always been successful for two people who have developed a lifetime of self-protective instincts, distrust of letting others too deeply into their world, and fear of ultimately being hurt, abandoned, used, or betrayed. I accused my friend today of not being willing to open up or take chances or give anyone the benefit of the doubt or to let anyone in, but the truth is that I’m no better—-I push away the very people to whom I want to get closer. And, being more intuitive than most, it’s like I *know* what’s going to accomplish that self-protective sabotage that I’ve relied on to keep me safe—an instinct that’s resulted in a lifetime of commitmentphobia, polyamoury, a string of broken engagements and ex-lovers who won’t speak to me, friendships that change every few years, and the unique talent I have for telling people I want them to come closer while simultaneously pushing them away. Maybe we both share the same fear of intimacy that means our friendship can only exist on a superficial level, but I kind of instinctively feel the opposite…that perhaps we are the kind of people that can really and truly relate to one another in a way most others cannot. I suppose only time—and the mutual interest and willingness to figure that out, if such an interest exists— will tell.

I also see that, deep down, my friend and I aren’t that different. I deal with many of the same issues in an extroverted, hyper-emotional way that he deals with in an introverted, “this isn’t comfortable for me” way. I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite that dichotomy, our feelings and insecurities and fears are very much the same. And I also wonder if this underlying dichotomy is that inexplicable *thing* that would draw two very opposite people together, and despite reason and logic, create feelings of “You’re supposed to be important to me, and I don’t know how or why, but I know you are important.” When you turn around the mirror image of yourself—the one that is superficially opposite in every way, yet still essentially you on some level—you either find something life-changing in some way, or something you simply can’t have in your life because you–or the other person–can’t deal. Again, I suppose it’s a matter of time and mutual interest in getting to know one another that will reveal which this is, but regardless, I have this feeling that my friend and I finding one another, and discovering these things about one another, is meant to be immensely significant in some way. Good, bad, indifferent, life-altering, or just confusing? I don’t know. But I’m willing to be open and patient enough to find out.

In some ways, it’s asking the impossible. For us to get to a point where we have the kind of friendship I think we could possibly have—one of that rare variety that pass through your life, teach you something valuable, and change everything when you’re not looking—-we both need to appreciate one another and see the small things, rather than making demands. We both need to get rid of defense mechanisms that aren’t doing either of us any good…because (and again, I might be wrong), I think that deep down we both look for the type of connections that we simultaneously fear and push away, and instead choose other types of connections to populate our lives. We both need to stop running away, emotionally detaching, or hiding behind sarcasm and other forms of communication meant to not betray any real, meaningful feelings.

I was really upset about the conversation today, not just because I felt hurt, rejected, and abandoned, but because I felt I let down someone I’ve come to care about greatly, and possibly destroyed the chance for a real,honest, deep connection. I assumed my friend would feel relieved and as if a weight were lifted, making it clear he didn’t want to know me as well or hear from me as often. But, writing this, I realise how inconsistent that is with the person I believe I’ve come to know…and that I forgot I’m not the only one with a great capacity for feeling emotional, abandoned, misunderstood, rejected, and not good enough. Wanting space to be yourself is not the same as not wanting to become closer to another person. At the same time, I could see why he’d be hesitant to want to become any closer to me than we already are. I think there are aspects of our friendship that confuse and overwhelm and scare this friend of mine—and at the same time, he truly values and wants in his life. Ironically, many of those are likely the same things. I asked him why, knowing about me and my tendency toward clingy, dramatic communication in compensation for other, more meaningful things—he still chose to befriend me, much less meet me, much less admit he felt the same inexplicable connection with me upon meeting that I did—and I don’t believe I ever got an answer. Knowing the answer might clarify some things for me. Am I just a curiosity that’s outlived the entertainment value by becoming a demand? :( I don’t actually believe that, but I’d hate to find out what I felt as connection was mere intrigue by something long heard about, but never experienced. I’d hate to discover that I was a novelty for this friend.

In an emotional outburst moment, I informed him that he could send me away and choose not to communicate with me anymore, but after a few days, he’d miss the presence he found annoying and distracting. I told him that I believed the fact he thinks he doesn’t need or define closeness in the same way I do might be true, but he also might be surprised to find that it’s not exactly the way he always thought to define it, either. An overemotional, dramatic statement, of course…but I suspect there’s an element of truth.

I think that my friend and I did, in a way, let each other down this week…and while that’s sad, it’s nothing that should put an end to what has the makings of a very special and valuable friendship. Sometimes, people fail one another. Sometimes, people fail themselves. That’s precisely what forgiveness and insight is for.

I know my friend doesn’t read my blog, or tries not to…but I do hope perhaps an exception exists for this one. He may not see things as I see them—my intuitive read on things has been known to be wrong—but somehow, I believe he’ll understand more about me, and about our disagreement, than I was able to communicate while it was happening. And if not, well—at least I know I understand better. I am not going to be the person who simply walks away and says “You have no idea what you’re missing out on in not knowing me”, and talk to him once a month, once every two months. If he’d rather we have that kind of friendship…well, that’s not my choice. I can only make my own decisions. But I’m not allowing my fear of feeling hurt and rejected and suffering from wounded pride to shut someone out of my life who has become quite important to me.

I think that’s a type of personal growth on my part, and I can only hope the continued interest in carving out a small place in life for another person who may one day become a great friend is ultimately reciprocated.

Sometimes all you have to say is, “I care about you, and I’m sorry all my own crap kept me from letting you know that, and not giving you what you asked me for.” It is OK to tell someone else what you need, but it’s also important to remind them how important they are in your life—if, in fact, they truly are, and you want them to stick around. And, when someone asks you for something, if you truly care, you owe it to them to keep trying to understand, to provide that…especially when it’s relatively small, but requires you working through some of your own issues. In a way, it’s the hallmark of one of the strongest types of friendships that can exist…one with a strong enough foundation to challenge one another, without drifting apart or growing resentful in the process. Under the right circumstances, those are the people who leave an indelible imprint upon your life…and I guess that’s why I feel as attached as I do to a friend I should be able to easily walk away from. After all, I have experience in walking away from relationships built on much more, with much more time invested…so why not this one?

I don’t know. It’s just something that, in the core of my being, I *know*…some things, some people, are too important to give up on. Most aren’t. But once in a very great while, you find the one that is, and there’s nothing logical about that. Yet, it is one of the most real and honest things there is in the world. Not everything has an explanation, yet some fundamental understanding of that thing’s importance exists on a very personal level.

I know I sound like a person who’s read too many Paulo Coelho books, which I am, but it’s how I see the world, and how certain things make sense to me. We all have multiple soulmates in life—and I’m not speaking of the romantic variety, although for some, that is part of it–but of the people who have an irreversible impact on who you become. Some grow with you, some stay with you, some merely pass through your life, but all leave a permanent mark that can’t be undone. Something tells me my friend is one of these people for me, even if he is not the type to believe in such things.

I’d like to hope that, whatever the purpose of our friendship and however confusing and rocky the path, the emotional side of my friend is able to understand and appreciate that, too. Because, sought out or not, it is truly a gift that life sometimes puts in your path.

I’m happy to report I’m feeling much better in general (although it’s raining, and that seems to activate the dizzy button in my head), and the anxiety and depression I was feeling was simply the fallout from me messing with my medication. Even though I returned to taking it as prescribed, the up-and-down rollercoaster effect the entire week had on my body, mind, and spirit was just a bit too much for me to handle without having something of a nervous breakdown when my roommate was kind of an ass and my toilet broke. (these things have since been fixed.)

Fortunately, I’d had an appointment to go and see my doctor on Tuesday, which was how I began my Valentine’s celebration. The Guy I Am Currently Dating came to pick me up and drove me to the doctor’s office. As always, she spent a long time with me talking about my issues, and agreed that a majority of my issues were related to the vestibular disorder I’d been diagnosed as having, and the health-related anxiety and predisposition to panic attacks. She gave me instructions not to mess with my medications until the next time I saw her, and she assured me that my heart, lungs, and other vital organs were perfectly fine.

She also reassured me that feelings of anger and depression and low self-esteem were natural, and almost everyone who’s been told that they’re facing a long recovery process and need to learn to live with something that there is no cure goes through that, whether the illness is life threatening or not. She pointed out to me that, in certain ways, my extensive medical knowledge, gained from a lifetime of reading and exposure to the field, and friendships with people with actual medical knowledge, was actually enhancing my symptoms. Apparently, highly intelligent and highly intuitive people are more likely to suffer from anxiety issues, simply from thinking too much, and believing whatever they’ve read about applies to them. For instance, medical residents routinely come down with a number of illnesses, all induced by hypochondria. Studying a brain tumour leads you to imagine every little thing in your head is a symptom of a brain tumour, since you are aware of many things that are symptoms. Certain personality types are prone to suffering symptoms after reading about them; oddly, the same personality type that excels at method acting, and can bring on not only the feelings of but physical signs of certain ailments. In the end, she told me to take my pills, eat right, exercise, stop stressing about weight loss because it would happen slowly on this medication, and to realise my problems were a simple vestibular disorder that happens to cause some weird things to happen, much like the struggles of chronic migraine suffers. She told me to talk to a psychologist specialising in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, stay off any other drugs anyone might wish to prescribe me, and go to the vestibular rehab sessions. Mostly, she told me the only “cure” for my problem was time and a willingness to keep on moving past the obstacles, and eventually, things like depression would pass as I retrieved my self-confidence. All that was very good to hear, and I left feeling pretty awesome about things, actually.

Tuesday evening was a low-key Valentine’s Day…it was Tuesday, and both The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I had a ton of work. So, we exchanged cards and gifts, and went to play trivia! It was one of our best trivia nights ever…we were in 1st all the way down to the tie-breaker. We tied the tie-breaker, but the other team handed it in first, so we still came in 2nd. ARRRRGH. We’re trying our best for that 5th place spot, and the tournament is in two weeks. Of course, plenty of other teams are trying to get in the top 5 as well. There’s really no incentive, other than we’ve been in the top 5 for the past 4 tournaments, and we get a plaque. I like getting plaques. It reminds me of being 12 years old and getting an award for something that’s really awesome when you’re 12.

The Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a stuffed blue M&M. I love it. No flowers or balloons or chocolates, but I love my M&M. Everytime I go to NYC, I bring back an M&M for him from the M&M Store. Last time, I got him the pillow shaped red one for the bed…and he got me the blue. The colours of the M&Ms correlate to different emotions. Blue is happy and energetic.

I got some other lovely Valentine’s gifts from friends and family in my life, including a beautiful book called “The Art Of The Moment”, DVDs of “Phantom”, “Chess”, and “Les Mis” from Royal Albert Hall, a few copies of a book written by an aspiring author friend (one of which was immediately passed along to The Guy I Am Currently Dating), and a poem. Not to mention, there were of course some Facebook greetings, which always spread the love. Naturally, I bought myself a Valentine’s gift, too, long before the holiday. I’d pre-ordered the latest DVD in the Twilight series, and it arrived on the 15th, so…that’s what we’ll be watching this Friday.

The Day After Valentine’s Day was pretty good, too. It marked my debut with Atlanta’s Write Club Atlanta, a group of writers, actors, directors, and other artistically inclined folks who put on a show that features three pairs of performers reading 7-minute stories/poems/monologues composed on opposing subjects. As it was February, ours all had to do with things that could (but did not have to be) Valentine’s Day related. My round, “Stay Vs. Go” had me representing “Go”.

I had a million reasons not to do this sort of thing; getting on stage with bright lights, a sound system, a huge crowd, and just having been diagnosed with a vestibular disorder makes something that most people dislike by nature (public speaking) even more challenging. Add to that that I’m a self-conscious person these days, having gained 25 pounds and learning it’s a long road to losing weight on a beta-blocker, and it would seem that signing up to get up on stage in front of strangers…and then invite all my friends…would be a remarkably bad idea.

It wasn’t. In fact, my friends were very supportive and the Write Club people very kind, diverse, and funny. They’re the kind of people who not only embrace quirkiness but demand it, something I’ve missed since living in Atlanta. I’d definitely participate in their projects in the future, and will certainly return to hear other people read their works. It’s just a good, creativity-affirming time.

Also, I actually ended up winning my round (audience applause is king in these situations) although the guy who wrote about “Stay” was really funny. I actually clapped for him, until I remembered audience applause counted, so I was effectively voting against myself. Oooops. The best part was hearing praise and encouragement from other people on my way out. I met a group of people who asked if the story I’d written about was true (absolutely, 100%, and then some…I had to omit quite a bit in the name of time and because not everything is funny.) I also met a girl who told me she knew exactly who I was talking about in my story ( a humorous anecdote based on a guy I went out with a few times), because her friend met said guy at a party and almost went out with him. It’s a small, small world.

I’d post my composition here, but, it will eventually be released in podcast form…so, all in due time.

Most importantly, I conquered a potential fear. I wondered if this inner ear/dizziness problem was something that would keep me from ever getting on a stage again. While I’m not quite up for doing a musical yet, I proved to myself that the answer is “No”. I may be afraid of having a panic attack, but I can get up on stage for 10 minutes. I can go to parties and concerts and even shop at Kroger. I can start working off the extra pounds with exercise, and learning to cook for myself. Maybe I can even travel.

After the show, I went out to a nearby pub for a few drinks and conversation with a group of close friends here in Atlanta. One of them told me about a time in his life he went through a similar situation that I’ve been dealing with, albeit for different reasons, and likely around the same point in his life that I am at right now. (my friend is a bit older and wiser than myself, though just by a few years.) It made me feel, for the first time in months, I was talking to someone who understood.

Few things make you feel stronger than talking to someone who understands, who has been where you are, and survived.

All in all, I had a pretty good week, although work has been intense, I started a new project, things kept breaking, and I feel the internal need to slow down and rest, but have too much to do. Also, it has occurred to me that I may have offended a friend/acquaintance of mine, as I sent a “here’s some random “thinking of you” stuff in the mail” package to him, as I’ve been known to do. Yet, I’ve not heard from him in quite some time..so, I don’t know. I tend to offend others unintentionally and when I’m not looking. I’d say I’m paranoid, but the fact that I’ve actually lost friends I cared about without explanation, have been kicked out of social groups, and still avoid certain places in multiple cities for fear of running into those who are openly not Alayna fans…well, I’d say I’m just a realist. ;)

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day week, as well…single or couple, married or not, children or not, long-distance or in the same house. I like Valentine’s Day because it’s a reminder that there’s so much love in the Universe, and it’s the kind we could be putting out there every day, without all the inhibitions and insecurities and judgments and limitations. I’m not just talking about romantic love and sexual attraction (though it applies to that, too), but to friendships and familial relationships and saying hi to that barista at Starbucks you have the secret crush on. I’m talking about remembering to put love and support and compassion out there as much as possible, and to have more true friends, and fewer acquaintances (my personal focus for this year, along with getting back to myself, physically and emotionally.)

I’m also incredibly happy my toilet is fixed, although the Y on my computer is not.

That being said, I kind of wanted a balloon. I love balloons. :P But I’m learning to be a little less high-maintenance. ;)

One of the things I discuss a lot, whether on my blog, in my private journals, or through my poetry and fiction, is the difficulty of struggling with a personality that tends to over-idealise a majority of people, things, events, and relationships, while simultaneously having a high level of distrust that borders on cynicism. It is a tough type of personality to have, one who sees the world as it could be, as it should be, yet is chronically disappointed that it isn’t, while knowing all along that reality is going to be the eventual outcome of a situation.

I have particular difficulty when it comes to friendships, and even acquaintances. The problem takes on a whole new dimension when it comes to relationships, but that’s a different story for a different day.

You see, I always expect other people, if they are a friend, to treat me in the same way I’d treat them…which, a majority of the time, involves a high degree of sensitivity that borders on well-developed intuition. (i.e. “If you really knew me, you’d understand why this is such a big deal.”) Unfortunately, I’m the sort of person who usually goes above and beyond when it comes to the “thinking about what others would feel” situation, thanks to an overly empathetic nature that often causes as many problems as it fixes. I am by no means perfect, and there are plenty of times when I let others down, when I put my own feelings first, where I speak first and think too late. As a former friend told me—and he is absolutely right—I value being right and having the last word over simply keeping the peace, which isn’t an attractive quality. Yet, for the most part, I try to go through life thinking about not only what makes me happy, but what makes others in my life happy. I have a lot of qualities that could use some work, but for the most part, I’m a really good friend.

The older I get, the more I realise I don’t have the time, energy, and interest to invest in someone who really just doesn’t think I’m that awesome. This isn’t just pure narcissism…although a small part of me does believe everyone I meet should think I’m awesome…but because I’ve been hurt by people who just didn’t care as much as they should have, or didn’t express it via actions. That’s a hard lesson, particularly for someone who has spent years running a social group where my job is to make unappreciative strangers happy as much as possible, and the number of “thank yous” and genuine friendships that have come out of that are far smaller than the number of people who complain, blame, treat me with disrespect, or say negative things about me or my group, when, frankly, they didn’t take the time to get to know me and aren’t giving any indication they can do what I do, only better, after offering their criticism. (there is one memorable exception, which, rather than offending me, makes me laugh.) It’s a hard lesson for someone who’s spent a lifetime understanding when so-and-so didn’t call, why a person she generally liked never wanted to see her again, why people aren’t as interested in connecting with others as in “fluff” and fun and not taking things too seriously. It’s a hard lesson for someone who has historically made excuses for people who don’t offer what she deserves, in terms of respect and appreciation and the value in friendship. (It’s been even worse when it comes to relationships…I have a rationalisation for why someone still loves me, even though he did this horribly disrespectful and hurtful thing, and I will use it, over and over again.)

Sadly, that lesson has been presenting itself in my life a great deal over the past year. There are a few people I genuinely liked and considered friends, or felt a connection with and wished I could get to know better, who simply cut off contact with me and made it clear they’d rather not know me. There are people I don’t know and have never behaved rudely toward to who criticise my social skills and call me fat to total strangers, while avoiding confrontation with me.

Every event I hold, there are 1/3 of the people who say they’re coming who simply never show up. It’s a complaint every Meetup organizer with a large group has, and there’s no way around it. It’s one thing that never fails to upset me, because I simply don’t understand it. I get that people are busy, that plans change, that there are people that others would just plain rather hang out with. However, the “no-show” business…the chronic idea that not showing up somewhere you made plans to spend time with someone, even a stranger, without so much as a phone call or an e-mail or a two word text….it makes me feel like giving up the gig altogether. I don’t understand how others can disrespect someone who is putting him or herself out there when it’s not necessary. I just wouldn’t do that, because I don’t believe in taking anyone’s presence, anyone’s friendship, anyone who offers something when they don’t have to, for granted.

It’s even worse when said behaviour becomes from a friend. A few years back, I had a friend who was known for this behaviour. Something would come up on the way to an event, and she’d change her mind and not show up. A day before, she’d inform me her plans had changed, and I’d have to deal with something entirely on my own. I’d make plans with her, only to be abandoned at the last minute, too late for me to make different plans of my own. This friend has changed a good deal over the years, but there was a point where life took us in different directions and I didn’t really reach out (although she didn’t, either), because I remembered all these moments where we really didn’t treat one another the way friends should. Fortunately, we are again friends, and now that we both know how to behave a little more maturely, the “situations” that caused the drama no longer happen. It helps when people are around the same age and go through the same growing-up process together. *laughs*

On the other hand, I also had an acquaintance for a long time who I tried to be friendly with, but we were just never that close. We had mutual friends with whom we were much closer, but she and I together just never really hit it off in that “Let’s hang out and be friends” way. For me, one of the reasons was a reluctance to open up to her, because she’d consistently RSVP for things and not show up, or tell us right before the event started. I generally think if someone is that casual about making plans with their friends, it’s often the case that said person is that casual with the feelings of others, and I’m just not in to that. I don’t need more friends I wonder if I can count on when I really need it, or are the ones talking about me behind my back, and printing out my “friends only” journal entries to read out loud and laugh about with their friends. :P

Tonight, I had flashbacks of this long-term attempted friendship with the flaky girl, while waiting for a friend who was supposed to join us for trivia this evening….one who never showed up. I didn’t get a phone call, or a text, and when I made it home later in the evening, I saw I didn’t even merit a two word e-mail or Facebook message.

Of course, my first thought was to be concerned about his well-being. Once, I had a friend who stood me up on Cinco di Mayo, and I was pissed because he turned his cell off and didn’t bother to get in touch. I resolved that I deserved better, and planned to discontinue the friendship ASAP…until he showed up at my front door needing a drink and someone to talk to. As it turned out, my friend wasn’t an inconsiderate jackass…he’d spent the night in jail after getting pulled over on the way home from my place the previous night.

At the same time, I have this intuition that tells me the non-trivia-playing friend is absolutely fine, and happened to be off drinking with friends, or hanging out with his girlfriend, or had an otherwise exciting change of plans that meant it was cool to ditch joining us…which it would be, if I’d been important enough to get some form of communication telling me so.

And, really, that genuinely hurts me. Frankly, I don’t know this person all that well…it’s one of those situations where I feel like I’ve gotten to know someone pretty quickly via chit-chat and sharing and even some “deep conversations”, without ever spending that much time together. But, for a while, I felt we were genuinely on the road to becoming friends.

Since the holidays, though, this friend has really shown limited interest in communicating with me…a far cry from how we were getting along previously…and when we do speak, it’s not in a very “connected” way. And perhaps that’s just what happens in life, and not everyone’s meant to be the best of friends. Sadly, though, this is what I do, the idealist that I am. I meet people who have qualities I like and admire and gravitate towards, and try to befriend them for that reason. I don’t always remember to take the time out to notice that if that person isn’t that interested in communicating with me or hanging out, it’s probably because they don’t see qualities they like and admire and gravitate towards in me. Friendship, like all other things, is a two-way street. I’ve been told a cardinal rule in life is to never chase after anyone, because if they’re not aware of how fabulous you are, there are plenty of people in the world who are. Somehow, I’ve learned the truth of this in relationships, but when it comes to friendships, I still expect too much of others. I still expect others to treat me the same way I choose to treat my friends. I still have this idealistic view of friendship, thinking favourably of others, and building connections.

One of the biggest has to do with respect. If someone thinks I’m not interesting enough that they’d rather ditch something I invited them to in favour of something better, I kind of get that. That someone is usually right. I’m not the world’s most exciting company. But if they think that it’s cool to just not show up without a word, while I care enough to wonder if that person is OK…that’s just not a lack of friendship, a lack of interest, but a lack of respect.

I am overidealistic and expect too much from people, and therefore, am constantly disappointed when I see others aren’t quite what I imagined them to be…but I know I don’t deserve that lack of respect. Being my friend may not be the most fascinating prospect in the world, and maybe some people will naturally be psyched about the chance to get to know me while others kind of take my openness for granted and think it’s not all that special…but the fact that I care, I think that should always count for something.

It hurts when the world takes that so lightly, and being the busy, self-absorbed, emotionally detached place that it is…well, it so often does. I’ve tried to develop thicker skin over the years, and to make myself less open, less accessible to befriending others. Sometimes, though, I wonder if it’s really me who needs to change how she sees, treats, and thinks of others.

The cynic in me says, after the experiences of 2011, “Whatever, I don’t need new friends. I have some perfectly great people in my life.” But once in awhile, I come across someone that has some rare quality, some rare connection in common with me that says they might be a good addition to that collection of wonderful people in my life. But, when that interest and that level of respect for building a friendship doesn’t run both ways…I have to know when to admit there’s nothing I can do.

It doesn’t keep me from feeling hurt, and disappointed…and wondering why I’m so different, so overly sensitive, because so many people wouldn’t care. Yet I always care, too much, and always end up getting hurt by that. Is it stubbornness, a lesson I refuse to learn, or just emotional masochism?

I heard from the no-show friend today, who apologised and explained a situation came up, he still wanted to be friends, it wasn’t personal, etc., etc. I know those things are probably true and genuine, and that my intuition is right…I’ve been dealing with someone who is a genuinely nice person. I am glad that he is fine and his situation got sorted out, but I also feel extremely distant, as if an important dynamic has changed in said friendship.

I deserve a thought, an e-mail, a phone call when you can’t make it to things. And I’m actually nice enough and have enough positive attributes that I’m worth getting to know; some people who really do know me will agree that in my own special and unique way, I’m pretty awesome. And so, I can’t be the one always reaching out and attempting to be friends with someone who may or may not see that. As I’ve said, I have literally thousands of acquaintances, some of whom I know better than others…and I’m always happy to add more. But if you really and truly wish to be my “friend”, it takes work, it takes interest, it takes respect and consideration, and it takes a willingness to put yourself out there.

Life has taught me not everyone is up for that…it’s not what our society is about. It’s not always fun and easy. It’s not always about the happy-go-lucky image instead of the real person. Actual friendships take work…and that’s why I know I’m blessed with more “true friends” than most people have, because I’ve put in the ups and the downs, the laughter, the tears, and the craziness. Most of my close friends have been an important part of my life from 5-15 years, and I don’t know what I’d do without them. I just celebrated a birthday, and while many of those friends couldn’t be present, virtually all my close Atlanta friends were…as well as a few new ones. And not a single person forgot to show up, or came three hours late. I was really touched that people brought cards and gifts and cake, when their presence would have been enough.

A guy who plays trivia with us on Saturdays, albeit on an opposing team that always beats us, has been having a tough time, as his dad is extremely sick. It seems likely that, barring an unexpected recovery, he may pass away soon. My heart really hurts for this person, and what he is going through…and it also reminds me how short life is. At any time, any person you know could be that person in a hospital bed somewhere, which is why it’s so important to actively appreciate everyone you care about, everyone you love, everyone whose presence you appreciate on a regular basis.

It’s a high ideal to live up to, and we all fall short (I don’t call home nearly as often as I should), but one that’s consistently worth trying for. That’s how I try to live my life, and like to surround myself with people who do the same.