As many of you have noticed, I stopped my daily blog entries before I could even get halfway though the A To Z Challenge. It is a lovely idea and a great group of people; I just honestly had no idea when I started this project in April that I’d also end up tackling a much tougher project: cutting back on my beta-blockers in an attempt to feel a little bit healthier.

I’m pleased to report that nearly 20 days after deciding to finally do something about the beta-blockers, I have successfully cut my dose in half. This is a much faster transition than doctor’s recommend, but one of the “special” things about me is that when I set my mind to do something, I tend to want to reach goals as fast as possible. I had a terrible two weeks of withdrawal and rebound symptoms, and know these symptoms may keep on going for a good while yet, after reading the experiences of others. But I’m proud of myself for making it this far.

One of the strange and most distressing symptoms is pain and swelling in my fingers, which make it difficult to write longer blog entries like this one. I’ve never had anything like this before, but do spend a large percentage of my day typing on electronics. I am hoping it is a temporary problem or side effect of drug withdrawals, and not an entirely new health issue or worrisome symptom of my “mystery illness”. In any case, all of this has caused me to simplify my life, check out of anything causing stress or deadlines, and having to give up on the A-To-Z challenge. I’d love if all of you who wrote supportive messages would keep coming back to visit, and my thanks for that support. I’m also very sorry for having to abandon something I was very excited over doing…that is not like me at all. I do tend to overload my plate with things I want to do and get very stressed out about that, and it just wasn’t something I could handle while going through withdrawal symptoms. I promise I will be back next year, though.

I do not know if cutting back on the beta-blockers has helped me, but it certainly hasn’t hurt. I’ve started to wake up earlier, started working even a minimal number of hours again, dropped a few pounds, and some days, I catch myself feeling way happier than I have in a long time.

One of the things that goes along with dealing with a chronic illness is that people think you’re depressed, especially when it changes your lifestyle from being the life of the party to being a bit of a recluse. Earlier in the week, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I got into a fight because he found out I’d been spending time playing a game online every day, meeting new online friends, and didn’t mention it for a year or so. I understand why he was angry about it, that I kept something important to me a secret. However, when you’re sick, sometimes it’s important to have a space of your own, where people don’t treat you like someone who is sick…even the rare people you strike up friendships with via Skype or e-mail. It is important to have a space to just be yourself, the you that you were before something came along and took away pieces of your spirit and your life. It is important to meet other people, even strangers, who may be suffering in their own lives, but rarely talk about it because it is a relief to escape from the world and the people in it that consistently want to help, but just remind you that you’re not normal, and hurt you because you can’t give the thing they want: the old, energetic, healthy you back.

Sometimes, remembering what it’s like to be healthy for a few hours is more helpful to a person suffering with chronic illness that the most supportive and loving friend. You don’t love your friends any less, but when they are living out in your old life, in a world you can’t participate in, it kind of hurts and is hard not to be depressing or feel depressed after a while.

I do not generally feel depressed, even if I can’t go out and play. A friend of mine has told me that everything that has happened to me has made me a more substantial person. I am happy and appreciative of the small things; the TV shows I love, reading and writing, a lovely chat with a friend, a visit on the weekends, a surprise for no reason. I am no longer spending hours posting pictures of myself, and getting involved in arguments on Facebook, or spending every Sunday in bed with a hangover. I am not even killing myself with anxiety over sick family members, financial troubles, or even what has made me so ill for so long, and if there’s going to be a diagnosis or treatment. My primary focus in life is me and doing the things that make me happy, for maybe the first time in my life. Pleasing others is no longer something that is there to define me. It may seem selfish, and it may seem weird, but I am not depressed. Some days, I am even optimistic that a day will come when I have my life back, and still have that greater appreciation for the small things. Some days, I am even happy; I smile and I laugh. I am not always at peace with my situation, but I am at peace with myself more than I’ve ever been. There is a reason that when people are recovering from anything, whether it’s addiction, mental illness, or a physical ailment, “putting yourself first” becomes less of a foreign concept. I still feel guilty over it sometimes, but when “feeling the best you can today” becomes your most important thing, so many other things are secondary.

Healing, even a little bit at a time, is a personal journey…but I really do appreciate everyone who cares, everyone who leaves comments or chats with me on the internet or sends me Skype messages or posts things on Facebook I like. I know that The Guy I Am Currently Dating may be bored with all our “quiet time”, but the 100% truth is that I look forward to Friday nights with Boston Market and Amazing Race every bit as much as I did going to the coolest new restaurant, and drinking until 4 AM at the club. Yes, I still miss those things and someday, adventures may be part of my life. But for now, things that used to bore me and be met with a “Why can’t we DO something?” are now things to which I look forward.

Perhaps it’s fair to say all these struggles have helped me grow up, just a little, without my even noticing.

Thank you to everyone who is sharing my journey with me. It may not be the road I’d have chosen for my early 30’s, but I am not alone and I am not depressed. In fact, I’ve started feeling happier than I have in a long time, looking forward to things that are months away, without the caveat “If I’m still around”.

I would have liked to have the energy to finish my A To Z project, but instead, I spent April focused on healing, baby steps at a time, so that maybe I’ll be in a better place for next year’s A To Z April. 🙂

And who knows? Perhaps this less than desired chapter of my life will make a wonderful book someday.

Today, I came across an article on Facebook that really resonated with me. It was by someone who didn’t believe in pressure and limitation of New Year’s Resolutions, and just wanted to be a happier individual that didn’t obsess over things that really don’t matter that much. So, instead of creating a bucket list, she created a “Fuck It” list; a list of worries, concerns, anxieties, drama, and nonsense she wanted to remove from her sphere of existence.

I used to be much, much better about managing stress and anxiety, which is also to say that I was much better about living life in a fairly irresponsible way and not freaking out about situations I couldn’t handle until they actually descended upon me. For instance, even during the most challenging time of my life, where I’d lost all of my friends and was being kicked out of my condo and didn’t know where I was going to live, I managed to not freak out. In fact, two days before having to leave my home of years thanks to a very spiteful acquaintance-turned-enemy, I hosted a goodbye party for anyone who still cared enough to show up. During that evening, I drank multiple bottles of wine, went skinny dipping in the pool, hooked up with a friend’s ex-something-or-other, and skipped through the rather fancy lobby in front of the security guards, who were also from the Atlanta PD. In the midst of the chaos of trying to find a place to stash my stuff and figuring out how not to live on the street, I was more focused on this rather senseless and crazy fling than on things that mattered.

And when things went even more wrong and I moved in with an ex-boyfriend, and had no sense of how to get my life together, I approached everything with a “one day at a time” attitude. Everything was falling apart, and I was still listening to my iPod and tanning by the pool and playing online poker. I was trying to figure out my future, but didn’t wake up with the sense of “If I don’t fix this today, I might as well die.” I was still happy when I woke up in the morning and saw the sunshine. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware that I should probably be closer to suicidal than thinking I was Paris Hilton recovering from a little “oops”, but it was a coping mechanism I’d always employed. Concentrating on the moment always made me more appreciative of the little things. If you’re aware that next week, you can lose everything, small things like trips to Cracker Barrel or being able to watch TV in my PJs or going out in the sunshine become things that really make you happy. For most people, most days, the little things are remarkable and life seems boring if you don’t set the bar higher for “interesting things that can happen to you”. When your life is really falling apart and you have no sense of stability, you don’t want interesting. You don’t want adrenaline rushes. Everything you have, even time that is so free of stress that you can dance around your room with your earbuds in, seems so much more valuable. I think the time in my life where I most appreciated how many good things I had in my life immediately followed the shock and trauma of having everything taken away.

These days, I can’t cope that way anymore. When things are not good, I am terrified of the consequences; I lie awake at night thinking about what it’s like to die, or what if I didn’t wake up the next day, or if I became homeless or got arrested or something happened to someone I love. (not that I have any reason to believe these things will happen.) When things are good, I rarely remember how to live in the moment. Instead, I’m stressing about the next moment and the next.

My doctors tell me I’ve struggled with symptoms of anxiety most likely my entire life. However, I never had any idea. Nobody did, because my way of coping with life was to appreciate what you have today, and if tomorrow sucks, deal with it then. In fact, except for my health issues, my life today is about 1/10th as stressful or dramatic as it once was. I’m no longer getting myself into “situations” wherever I turn. I no longer think of the future as “planning for next week”. And when things make me unhappy, I do not remember how to push them aside and live in a way that’s even more fearless or even more appreciative, because they may be temporary. Instead, I cry for the possibility that the worst might happen, and I don’t appreciate the little things I do have so much as mourn for things I used to have but no longer do.

Somehow, my coping mechanisms disappeared, and it left me an anxious, worried, frightened person. The person who used to handle situations that would cause other people to break down for me is suddenly a person who does not routinely wake up feeling joy anymore. She is a person who feels like a failure, who is scared her health will limit her or kill her and doesn’t know which is worse, who can’t remember “Today is a good day simply because nothing bad happened.” Some people might say I simply grew up and started thinking like a responsible adult, but I don’t feel better for the change.

I kind of miss those days when the worst things in the world were happening, and I just kept on living and dealing and moving forward. I don’t miss the horrible things that seemed impossible to handle, but I miss how wonderful it felt just to appreciate one of life’s small pleasures without fear or anxiety. It would be the highlight of my day to walk down the road for a slice of pizza and a rum and Coke, just because I could. I remember once, after not only barricading myself inside in the suburbs for months but also not drinking alcohol at all, taking the train over to Decatur and having a martini at lunch at one of my old haunts. I wasn’t worried about being seen in public and having an egg thrown at me, and it felt like freedom. I remember thinking I was too young to feel so worried and so scared about the future, and it gave me the courage to move on. Moving on wasn’t easy. As soon as I started to take small steps and appreciate the little things, though, the more I rebuilt my life.

I’ve had to rebuild my life often. Different cities, different friends, different jobs, different relationships. Long-term doesn’t seem to work well for me, and living with a life of little stability is something that takes courage. Now that I am not living that way, there is so much more time to think, and everything is so much more difficult to handle. I think about the future, I think about my relationships, I take every failure, every heartbreak, every loss, every personal deficiency so much to heart.

So, honestly, there’s probably something to be said about completely not giving a fuck about most of the stuff that adults are supposed to spend time worrying over. What do I think about myself? What do other people think of me? Am I with the right person? Am I loved? Am I successful at anything? Am I on the right path in life?

Life used to be an adventure, and you accepted that you’d have to adapt and change as it went along. That’s just life. And in the meantime, a quiet day where you got to sit by the pool or go dancing with your friends or watch your favourite TV show with pizza could be a pretty good day. As we get older, our requirements for things that make us happy seem to get higher and higher, and the definition of things that will ruin our days become a much broader spectrum of things. For instance, the past few New Year’s Eve’s of my life have been spent with me crying, because of arguments over relatively small things, like silly string and forks…whereas horrible New Year’s Eve’s in my 20′s were defined by very dramatic, life-changing moments that said “This is an end to a chapter of your life; you have to change course now”.

I do not think that seriousness and responsibility is bad, but life isn’t necessarily something to be mapped out in an obsessive way just because you become an adult. And, if you spend most of the good times thinking about the future and most of the bad times crying about the past, and most of the unremarkable times worrying about everything and everyone, you miss out on a lot of appreciation of the present. You miss out on the little things that can create a feeling of security and freedom and peace in your life, and that feeling isn’t something that should only be reserved for the very young, for those still naive enough to feel hopeful.

There are people in my life—very few people, and not those I’m able to see as frequently as I’d like—who put me in this frame of being, and as a result, help me cope with some very trying times and still look forward to finding happiness in the small things. For instance, one of them is a friend who has made a very conscious decision to live life without caring about the minor drama, without having life ruined by small mishaps, without being affected by what people think or say about him, without being bothered by 85% of what most people are bothered by. He’s truly decided to adopt an attitude of “Life is too short to only give a fuck about the really important things”, and as a result, he puts other people at ease. His lack of emotional delicacy and unwillingness to sugarcoat things is something that actually comforts me, and puts life into perspective.

There are a few others, but for the most part, a majority of the people I know seems just as stressed and unhappy and anxious and worried and care about just as many irrelevant things as I do. People care so much about image, about prosperity, about the future, about what others say and think, about having enough, about being better than others, about judging others—and it’s so limiting, and so stressful.

There comes a point where you realise that you can de-clutter your emotional space the same way you clean up your living space. You put things away when you don’t need them. You throw away things you won’t ever need or only serve to make you feel negatively. You realise that tomorrow, something great might happen, or something horrible might happen…but it doesn’t matter, because now you’re perfectly fine. If you’re not, you will be.

Giving a fuck about everyone and everything can be toxic, as toxic as not caring about anyone or anything at all. Not every moment is worth treasuring, because, yep..it’s just a moment. But once in a while, you’ll feel a sense of freedom and like everything that weighs you down has been stored in the closet, and when that happens, that moment is a good one. It doesn’t matter if it happens when you’re travelling the world, or when you’re making Kraft Mac & Cheese.

Fearing the unknown and being paralyzed by mistakes of the past are two really simple ways to make sure you never go anywhere, do anything, appreciate a single moment, because you’re so hung up on yourself and stuff that doesn’t matter. All of life is uncertain and unknown. And every day will be a yesterday eventually, and there may have been a mistake that day. There will be more.

I wish I could remind my anxiety of what it used to be like when it wasn’t consumed by being afraid of everything that didn’t have an explanation, or controlling the future, and was just a little piece of baggage along for the ride.

I wish I could remind anxiety that there are things worth being excited about and adventures to be had, and even if my “mystery illness” turns out to be a fatal five-years-to-live thing, they can still be a really worthwhile 5 years. When I was outside of Atlanta traveling this summer, strangely, life seemed to take back a sense of perspective. A little sunshine and good company and time out appreciating the small things, and I actually woke up every day feeling 10 years younger and looking forward to life.

I wish I knew how to do that in the context of my actual life, because I think I’m missing out on a lot, not feeling that excited about life every day. I wish I knew how to be happy about my ordinary, every day life, rather than feeling crappy about all the ways in which it isn’t the life I want, I’m not the person I want to be, and I feel powerless.

I think it would change a lot, if home felt the way I do when I travel…or if home actually felt like a safe, comforting place and not a temporary stop haunted by a lot of negative memories. I wish I could remember that my life is still full of possibilities, and not obstacles that all say “No” forever.

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”—John Lennon

Life is short, for all of us. Few of us ever have as much time to accomplish all we want to do with our lives, to determine our purpose for being here, for loving others and learning to accept the beauty of feeling loved in return. Regardless of how many calendars you accumulate, how many decades go by, how much living you’re determined to pack into your life, there’s just this sense of life as a finite experience, a party that’s never quite long enough.

I think this knowledge is why I’ve always been determined not to live life on the sidelines, to truly invest my heart and soul into things, to occasionally leap before I look, speak before I think, act upon nothing but feeling and instinct, have illogical flings and complicated friendships, try on new careers and creations and ideas until I see what fits, and try not to box myself into this idea of who I am supposed to be and where I’m supposed to end up. Even the best map so often doesn’t know, and while you’re busy trying to follow the path, you tend to miss the beauty around you, the possibility of others.

Life is short, and reading this beautiful article was simply heartbreaking. It reminded me to be grateful–for each day, for each person in my life, for each opportunity for something new and different to come along, for each memory, even for each hour spent doing something you’d rather not be doing. Every moment can be beautiful. Every person you make a space for in your life can change it. Every new thing you see or do or create can be the beginning of something important. But none of that happens if you listen to all the excuses not to take chances, not to put yourself out there, not to go on an adventure, not to trust, not to love, not to create, not to let yourself be judged and criticised and hurt and rejected, not to be the most authentic version of you that you can be.

Growing up is hard. Going through that part of your life where you’re now considered a responsible adult, but don’t feel like one, and realising you’re at the age where you once imagined all your questions and uncertainties and quests to “find yourself” would have yielded all the answers you needed by now—and you’re not any closer to understanding yourself, life, or the universe than you were a decade ago— it’s hard. It can be scary and lonely and leave you wondering if you’ll ever figure it out. It can leave you wondering if the chances you take are the right ones, if you invest yourself in others out of a need to follow your heart or just sheer bad judgment, if living differently from what the world expects of you is worth the challenge, if you’re doing the right thing—even when the right thing for you might be the wrong thing for someone else.

Growing up is hard. But it’s immensely preferable to the alternative. That’s why I intend to keep putting myself out there, even when it results in getting hurt. I intend to sometimes make the wrong choices because my heart tells me no matter how hard I try to put things in perspective, intuition and emotion are powerful tools that shouldn’t be ignored. I intend to keep on taking chances, falling harder than I should, wearing my heart on my sleeve and sharing my most personal feelings with the world, starting projects I intend to finish but never do, wasting time watching TV just because I truly love it, and accepting that life is all about enjoying the journey, because nobody’s all that certain about the destination. I intend to live my life as if it is always going to be the opposite of loneliness, because there are no guarantees, and no do-overs.

And,I hope that when I am 35, I throw the best parties. :)

It’s good to know I have a few friends/loyal blog readers who care, but you guys truly don’t let some stuff go, do you? *laughs*

Earlier in the month, I posted a piece on synchronicity, in which I shared a sweet story about reconnecting with a childhood crush at a cafe in New York City, and our subsequent love story/short-lived engagement. The point of the piece was not to vent about my personal life, but to share why I believe in synchronicity, and the power contained in the signs the Universe tries to send you on occasion. However, the most common feedback I’ve gotten over the past two weeks is “What happened with the rest of the story?”.

I didn’t really want to go into the rest of the story, because it’s personal, and also because I wanted to avoid exactly what happened: spending more time thinking about my ex-fiance than I have in a dozen years. :P

Since everyone wanted to know what happened to Avery, and why I cut the story short, the answer is a simple one. Life happened to Avery, and he ended up making largely the same choices most conventional Americans make.

After we broke up, Avery finished grad school, and went on to law school. He met a nice Jewish girl who is also the uber-ambitious, driven type, and helped him overcome his overly romantic, idealistic tendencies. In short, he found the polar opposite of me, the girl who’d always loved him precisely for his brooding demeanour, depressing poetry, and desire to change the world.

He still lives in New York City, is with an accomplished civil law firm, and is still, I assume, married happily enough. We keep in touch enough to say we’ve kept in touch, yet not enough to imply any real connection or stir up any issues. We have lunch or meet for drinks perhaps once a year when I pass through town. It is all very adult and civil, and there’s nothing serendipitous about it.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have regrets about Avery, but not the part where we didn’t stay together, didn’t get married. I think I intuitively knew he needed to be someone and pursue something other than what I had to offer, and I would only encourage him to take his life in a different direction, one that may have brought him much less happiness in the long run.

If anything, I sometimes feel sadness. I feel a sense of “Why did you need to choose the conventional, the obligatory? Why couldn’t you travel through life the way we always talked and dreamed about, off the beaten path, with me? Why did you end up wanting to change me, rather than let me help you encourage the authentic, adventurous you shine through?”

The answer is, few people are strong enough to choose the road less traveled, which is why it’s called the road less traveled. Doing so means hardship, sacrifice, lack of stability, being judged by others. For Avery, he felt always that his personal happiness was secondary to doing what was expected of him.

Although it sounds judgmental, and it is, I’m of course equally guilty. I fell in love with the idealist who wanted to become a journalist in a war-torn country and write a powerful piece about life in other places, the intellectual who saw himself as a professor who’d publish papers and give lectures on how to make the world a better place. I wasn’t any better prepared for a future that involved me being the wife of a civil litigator, any more than he was prepared to show off an outspoken, bohemian wife without an Ivy League pedigree.

People change, and they do not always change or grow together…and that’s just the sad reality of life. That’s why over half of marriages in the United States end in divorce, because people aren’t static creatures.

I am inordinately proud of Avery and everything he’s accomplished in the world, and the happiness I hope he’s found. I have a close friend who, over the years, I’ve seen gone through a similar transition, and I am equally proud of my friend and his happiness—though a part of me will always be sad he didn’t choose a different path, and that’s simply selfishness. We all have those weaknesses.

And while I still adore and admire Avery, I believe everything worked out for the best. The person—or persons—destined to end up with me are those who chose a path a little less conventional, who retained a bit more idealism and commitment to artistic and intellectual growth throughout the thing we call life, even if it means a crappier apartment and a heart that is broken and disappointed more frequently, and parents who are a little less approving. :P

I didn’t share this part of the story, because I am still romantic and idealistic enough that when I think of Avery, I think of the sensitive, idealistic, protective 16-year-old boy I ran through rain and mud just to hug goodbye…and how the Universe found that moment as meaningful as I did, because goodbye wasn’t goodbye.

The infrequent times I meet up with Avery to catch up on old times and talk about how different our lives are now, I always carry an umbrella.

Old habits die hard, and undue romanticism never does. ;P