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.

“”Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”—“Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”

Over the past year or two, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most in my life is the balance between establishing something resembling “security” in my life, while also feeling the freedom to be myself, and express myself and create myself freely. It’s odd, because I’ve never been one of those people who had to go looking to “find myself”. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, journeyed down a number of different paths, but I’ve always had this fundamental understanding of who I am. (I think it’s why my Meyers-Briggs and similar personality tests have remained almost identical over a period of nearly 12 years, while most of my friends’ have altered with their lifestyle changes and personal growth.) No matter where I am, what life I’ve chosen to live, what I choose to do with my time, who I choose to surround myself with, I’m largely the same person. I’m more than a little quirky, creative, colourful, insecure, snarky, outgoing with a definite need to escape into my own little world sometimes, a little demanding and outspoken at times, a little withdrawn and inaccessible at others, divisive and intimidating for reasons I’ve never understood, stubborn, charismatic, energetic, intelligent, quick-witted, funny on occasion, unconventional, naturally attractive to some and naturally repellent to others. I sense things about other people and situations that others don’t always see. Sometimes I see too much about others for my own good, or for theirs. I am an observer of human nature, inspired by the dark and idealistic alike, and have dreams and visions that are so vivid they seem a part of my reality. I’m extraordinarily passionate about everything except the daily, mundane, repetitive stuff I’d love to be passionate about. I’m not like everyone else, and I’m long past the point in my life where that makes me feel badly about myself, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I often saw people who represent my vision of conformity and the road usually traveled and wonder if I’d be happier and life would have been easier if I’d only been born that kind of person.

Interestingly enough, another thing I’ve always been for people in my life is a muse. I don’t know why; I’m with myself all the time, and I don’t find myself particularly intriguing or inspiring. I’m not the smartest or the most beautiful or the most interesting or the most assertive person in the world. Although I’m different, I’m also fairly low-key and ordinary in many ways. Yet, a lifetime of surrounding myself with artists and intellectuals and unconventional people has taught me that others see something in myself that I do not.

Over the years, I’ve been the subject of short stories and poems, posed for sketches, and had my portrait painted. I’ve been, although to a minor extent, immortalised in book form (for which I’ll always be eternally flattered.) I’ve starred in a number of different plays, musicals, operas, put on a one-woman show, and learned that every director I’ve ever met has looked at me and seen a different person. I’ve worked with artistic photographers and appeared in exhibitions. I’ve had a number of people tell me I inspire them to live, love, grow, and create. I’ve had some friendships and love affairs with people whose names you might recognise, although there’s not that much recognisable about me.

On one hand, it’s very flattering. On the other hand, it’s a great burden, being the thing that inspires someone else. I’ve had too many relationships end because someone fell in love with the girl who was going to help them break out of their shell and see a wider, brighter world, only to abandon that girl when the mission was accomplished (and marry or move in with the next girl in their life, one who was inevitably much more focused, much less flighty, but much less passionate about life.) I’ve discussed this story before, in my entry about the role of manic pixies in real life, so this is not a story about that.

Neither is this a post about “You should like my stories; I am awesome.” In fact, it’s a reflection from a girl who has learned that stability has come at a price. While I’ve been busy over the last two years or so struggling for “independence”, “respectability”, and “stability”, all things I’ve told adults need and qualities I naturally seem to lack, I’ve put many of the things that make me who I am on the back burner. My self-confidence and self-image has suffered greatly, from the emotional toll of trying to figure out what I need from my life, and wondering why people often judge and disapprove of me, to the physical trauma and side effects from illness that have affected me mentally, physically, emotionally. I don’t have the energy I once did, and never anticipated living without. The 25 pounds that got added to my body left me looking at a person I don’t love, a person who doesn’t care to flaunt herself, a person who isn’t always flirtatious or interesting to others, a person who no longer wants to be photographed or put on stage or be the centre of attention. In my mind, I no longer have it in me to inspire anyone, including myself…and I can’t help but think that’s a great loss. In reality, I’m still finding I occupy space in the world where I encounter men and women who idealise me, are curious about me, are enamoured of me, want to know me better because I bring out some creative and imaginative spirit. Apparently, a muse does not have to be in good spirits, young, beautiful, or easy to get along with, something which fascinates me. What is it about people that “inspires” certain other people?

Recently, I was having drinks with a friend of mine, and he said he didn’t know why others found him inspiring. In fact, he felt soul-baringly self-conscious about the idea, as if there were this fear that at some point, everyone would see he was just a scared, ordinary guy, and he’d be accused of being a fraud, a poseur. Really, when it came down to it, he didn’t see anything inspiring about himself at all. I’m not sure he even is at a point in his life where he knows who he is, or if he likes himself.

However, when I look at him, I see someone extraordinarily inspiring. He’s a person who once weighed over 650 pounds, and 2 years later, has lost over half of that. He’s been so inspiring to other people that, after finishing a tough obstacle-course type race here in Atlanta, he received an offer to spend the next 6 months training for a marathon. Not only that, he’s going to have the right kind of people to get him in shape, and help him reach his goal weight.

You see it on TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” all the time (transformations that are not always the healthiest), but to know someone with the sheer amount of willpower he has, someone who not only knows what he wants to do, but has the fortitude to battle against obstacles to get there, that’s true inspiration. When I felt too dizzy to be able to go outside and walk for five minutes without having a panic attack or worrying I’d have a heart attack, thinking about all he’d conquered gave me the strength to keep going, little by little. I’m a naturally impatient person, so accepting what I wanted was never going to happen overnight was the hardest part, but accepting that it wouldn’t happen at all if I didn’t start taking those little steps was what kept me getting out of bed on days it didn’t seem worth it to do so.

I’m telling this story today because my friend is leaving for his 6 months of training today, and although I haven’t known him for that long or gotten to know him as well as I’d have liked to, the few serious and thought-provoking and downright funny conversations we’ve had have made me an instant fan. He’s been nothing but supportive of me in the time I’ve known him, but in that honest, “It’s not really my job in life to flatter you and you can handle some constructive criticism” way that I need, but can only accept from certain people without being too emotionally impacted. There’s no doubt about it, I’ll truly miss him, and have no doubt he’ll be out there accomplishing everything he puts his mind to for the next six months.

People never really know when they inspire others, and when they discover that they do, the reaction to that is usually one of feeling flattered, mixed with “Why on Earth would you think anything special about *me*?”. For much of my life, I’ve felt a bit like the creative and often romantic “inspiration” I’ve evoked from certain others in my path has been unwarranted; the work of overly idealistic people who look at another overly idealistic person, and grow attached to a reality that isn’t there. I’ve always felt the need to shake people and say “Don’t you see there’s nothing special about me? I just pretend because you can’t go through life letting the world know that.”

Yet, what I’ve come to realise is that, like my friend, my own lack of self-confidence and skewed perception about the power I have to affect other human beings in this world, has kept me from seeing things that other people see in me….and those things have little to do with whether or not I’m in a positive mood, whether or not my body is in ideal shape, whether or not I feel like putting the effort into being charming or I end up being just downright impossible. I don’t know what people see in me, what inspires them…but I also know the people in my life probably have no idea, as an artist, who or what inspires me.

For years, I’ve kept a series of poems called “Intrigue”. It is not, as you might imagine, a recounting of all my various flings and fascinations and relationships. It is a collection of emotionally-based sketches, people who were able to evoke a response from me that inspired me. There are friends, lovers, acquaintances, enemies, people I no longer know, even people I’ve never met, detailed in these poems. There are people with whom I’ve spent years of my life, yet never wrote an “Intrigue” about.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a writer and all-around creative individual urged me to collect these, to turn all my “Intrigue” poems (and subsequent spin-offs) into a small volume of poetry. It likely wouldn’t be more than 30 pages, and few of the poems are any good; they’re merely emotional sketches. When I told her this, she repeated her encouragement for the project.

I again asked why, and she said “Maybe I just want to know what really moves you, what makes you tick. And if I do, so do more than a handful of others.” (I decided that, in my free time, I’d work on this and perhaps end up sharing with a handful of people who like reading my stuff.)

Everyone is inspired by someone, in some way…and in return, everyone inevitably inspires someone else.

I suppose it’s the circle of artistic—and emotional—life.

And I hope my friend remembers that when he’s missing home a bit, and off changing his life for the better..there’s simply no shortage to the amount of inspiration you can offer, even to your friends and family back home.

“When he thought of Ellen Olenska, it was abstractly, serenely, as one might think of some imaginary beloved in a book or a picture; she had become the composite vision of all he had missed.” — Edith Wharton, The Age Of Innocence

A week or two ago, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I had a conversation about the concept of the “manic pixie”, which is actually a type of stock character in films (and I suppose, consequently, in all forms of artistic expression.) It made me laugh, because a week or so before that, another friend had used that phrase in an e-mail, and I thought it was a cute little description he’d invented to characterise a certain type of person he’d run into in his life.

To a certain extent, stock characters are the lifeblood of the acting industry, and also the nemesis of actors. If you are, like me, the type of actor who is more likely to land a role playing some exaggerated version of herself than transforming herself into someone quite different, being typecast is a hazard of the trade that can be difficult to overcome.

In theatre, it’s something you live with. Based upon your body shape, height, size, physical characteristics, vocal inflections, ability to sing and dance, and even your real, off-stage personality quirks, you’re able to figure out your type. Either you’re the leading lady or the ingenue, the girl next door or the evil, conniving vixen, the character actress or the comedienne who steals the show, a soprano or an alto, a featured dancer or one who’s hiding in the back fudging the steps. Almost every play or musical has a character that fits your “type”, so you spend a lot of time learning how others perceive you and how to make best advantage so you can play that perfect role for your “type”. You learn not to waste time auditioning for roles that don’t reflect your “type”; in fact, in most open auditions, you’ll be screened out before you even get to the theatre door. Once you’re Equity and your auditions are by appointment, your agent will typically only get calls from those who want to see you for a certain role. It can be frustrating, if you want to branch out and show you’re Meryl Streep, which is why many theatrical performers also work in television, on soap operas, and singing in rock bands or performing stand-up in their spare time.

The world of film is a little more forgiving, mostly because there are simply more “types”. Film is based to reflect the real lives of real people in a way that most theatrical productions and television shows are not; it’s often the reason why musical theatre stars can cross over to TV, but not into film. The habits that are ingrained that make everything larger than life are ridiculous on the silver screen, unless, like Nathan Lane and Christine Baranski and William Shatner, you play characters MEANT to be larger than life.

In any case, I learned that in film, “manic pixie” is actually a stock character, a modern-day muse that attracts others, despite being fucked-up in some way, because she opens the door to a world with which the main character—usually a love interest—is unfamiliar. Although disturbed, she is often idealised because of her ability to relate and connect and help others grow, to disconnect from the world of what is expected and retreat into a greater world of adventure and romance and possibility. Of course, this world is an illusion, an idealised version of life that can never hold up over the long term.

I had an acute moment of understanding when he discussed this with me, because it occurred to me that this has largely been reflective of my experience in real life. Although those who don’t think I’m anything special can’t quite figure it out, I’ve always had a certain ability to attract—-not everyone, but a certain kind of person—and to draw others into my world. I’ve always had the ability to draw others out of their shells, to inspire them to something different and greater, to succeed. I’ve dated normal people who have gone on to become millionaires, Broadway professionals, doctors, lawyers, idealists who work to change the world. I’ve dated a number of people who marry the first person with whom they share their heart after me, and who are quite happy as a result.

I’ve struggled with being idealised, and the sense of broken-heartedness that comes with the realisation that the one you love is in love with an image. The power of this image is so deluding it’s led me to involvements with married men who viewed me as something greater than the simple, ordinary girl I am, and has ended with people considering ending their relationships to pursue something with me…something that inevitably wouldn’t live up to the ideal.

All this, this is why people become interested in me, despite any obvious excess of wit or beauty or intelligence or grace or sense of humour or anything else people gravitate towards. It is why people not only forgive the many ways in which I’m screwed up and the oversensitivity I wear on my sleeve, but the flaws become endearing. It is also when I am devastated when I invest myself in another person, help them to make huge life changes, become the person they want to be, and they end up leaving me and marrying the next girl who comes along—whom I often notice is not as charismatic, not as vibrant, and often, not as open as I am. The inevitable feeling that follows is “Why am I always the person who molds other people so they can move on, and embrace a happier, more fulfilled life with someone other than me?”

The thing about life, as compared to movies, is that people grow…and even stereotypical characters have a layer of something else underneath that may take some effort to see, but it’s there. But, it’s scary to me in some ways to see how art imitates life, and vice versa. At least, it does in my case. I attract those who idealise some aspect of me, and in turn, am attracted by the idea of being seen as something larger and more unforgettable than I am. Unfortunately, this is not the basis for a healthy relationship, and it is the basis for a whole lot of friendships that become extremely complicated in one way or another.

Of course, for a person who also idealises everyone and everything else in the world, I suppose it’s right that I should attract the same. Finding myself in a relationship that has an aspect of rationality and logic and boundaries to it means that I am happier and stable than I’ve been at other points in my life, but I also often miss the sense of the whimsical, the spontaneous, the living in a world that’s somewhat unreal, but filled with big thoughts, big feelings, and big ideas.

I guess, in my way, I’ve always been a manic pixie…and never understood why anyone would tolerate, much less be attracted to, a “weird” person like myself. Suddenly, I understand how it happened that a guy I knew on the internet for a number of years fell in love with the illusion I created…often unknowingly…and I ended up moving to Atlanta to live out that perfect, intense romance, only to realise real life was nothing like I imagined. We hurt each other deeply, that ex and I, and I suspect a lot of it had to do with two overly idealistic souls not being able to face disillusionment and reality on a daily basis without feeling hurt, betrayed, and looking elsewhere for another person to fulfill that ideal.

And, yes, the Wikipedia entry makes reference to Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”, which I still haven’t seen. :P

Over the past few weeks, I feel like whatever creative spirit has generally come to move me in the past has abandoned me. In some ways, I suspect it’s related to my job. Finding out I’m getting an unwarranted pay cut after being told my multiple managers, for nearly 2 years, that I am one of their best and most solid writers sort of put a dent in my inspiration. After all, if I have talent, shouldn’t that be rewarded at a higher level as time goes on, not a lower one?

The company I work for has implemented a “feedback” system, where you get paid according to the quality of work you’ve done, or others have judged you’ve done. In order to prepare for this step, they’d been “grading” our articles for nearly a month. Of course, I asked to see mine, since it’s always now in my best interest to write flawless articles. I discovered that previous managers had lied to me; my grades for work I’d done were more often than not,simply average, and sometimes below average. I’d been led to believe for years that the work I was doing was really exceptional, in terms of quality, and that’s the reason some of my issues with extended absences and lateness with work due to illness had been tolerated. To find out that my abilities, or what I do with my time each day, is merely “average” put a bit of a dent in my self-esteem.

Since then, I find that I’m really not able to successfully create. I’d been working on updating and editing some existing short stories and poetry, and on writing at least a few new poems each month. I’d started on my “bucket list’ item of writing a novel, and compiled over 50,000 words before I stopped working on it. Since the average book is 80,000 words, that’s a huge achievement, particularly for me.

The lack of creativity hasn’t been confined to my writing endeavours, though. I’m quite behind on Swap-Bot projects, because the fun and spontaneity of creating something to mail to a stranger just isn’t there. I have a number of art projects waiting for attention, saying “Hey, do this! It’s fun!”. I haven’t read a book in ages, despite the fact the The Guy I’m Currently Dating bought me a Kindle Fire for my birthday. (it didn’t arrive until last weekend, but I was delighted to see the selection of free classics I’ve been meaning to read for ages.)

Even getting dressed to go out is sort of “blah” lately…I keep wearing the same old stuff, because doing something interesting seems like a lot of work.

I am the picture of apathy, in general, because I’m not really inspired by, or to do, anything at all. There’s not even anything on TV I want to watch these days. It’s sad when the most entertaining show on my viewing list is The Real Housewives Of Whatever.

I used to be a very passionate and creative, life-loving person. It’s annoying that such traits abandoned me, through a combination of illness, winter, and a general belief that I’ve lived an entire life deluding myself: there’s nothing that special about me after all.

Last night, at about 1 AM, I did have a bit of a creative breakthrough. I realised that progress on my “novel-in-progress” had stalled because it lacked direction and focus. I wasn’t writing things in order; rather, I was writing a collection of short anecdotes with no logical progression. Consequently, since I jumped around from one period of time to another, the voice of my main character seemed inconsistent. It’s almost as if I were writing two books.

So, after working for about an hour completing a chapter, I came to the realisation that the story I wanted to tell wasn’t a novel. It was two books, told in form of “chapters” that were short stories that might even stand on their own. Somehow, I’d gotten this vision in my head, and ended up working on two different books simultaneously.

Of course, I don’t flatter myself that anyone would care to read one book by me, much less two, but once I sat down and came up with an outline of the stories I wanted to tell, I again felt enthusiasm for the project. I could see some sort of organization, pieces falling together, and that excited me. In fact, I became so excited about it that I couldn’t fall asleep until 5:30 AM.

I don’t know if I will ever finish my book….or two…but I would like to. I’d like to have the rough drafts of these pieces completed this year, and that’s very much an achievable goal if I work at it. I don’t know if anyone will ever read my book, or if I even want anyone to do so (it seems I’m too thin-skinned for the life of criticism and rejection that comes with being an artist, although I’ve spent 30 years trying to fight against that. ), but it means a lot to me to know I’m capable of starting a complex and interesting idea and actually finishing it. Progress on the project always ends up feeling just a little like therapy to me.

It would be great if I could simply stay inspired, and not let the little setbacks get me down. Does it matter if I’m not really as talented as I thought? (of course it does. One of the main reasons I stopped singing and acting is because I started to feel I wasn’t as good as I thought I was, and I was only on a path of getting older and less desirable…which is, of course, something that has inevitably happened.) Does it matter if I feel I’m not being paid what I’m worth? I’m sure over half of the American population feels that way, and while I like the security of making money consistently, I do have other projects to supplement my income. I could even look for a new job, although I just haven’t been inspired to do that.

So, where does inspiration and motivation come from? More importantly, how can I make it stick around and work for me?

I guess a good start is to actually do my work, rather than blogging at 2 PM> :P

“And a woman spoke, saying,
Tell us of Pain.
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burns your lips, has been fashioned by the clay
Which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears. ”

~ “The Prophet”, Khalil Gibran

I really did start this blog up again with the intention of getting it up and running much sooner, but like many things in my life, my initial enthusiasm about the project has been forced to take a back seat to the responsibilities of real life. It doesn’t seem as if I always have as much free time, or energy, as I’d like to have. Rarely do both occur at the same time, so that I almost miss those creative bursts that used to happen fairly frequently, keeping me up all night, but inspiring me to do more work on various projects than I’d end up doing in a week.

One of the problems is that writing for a living has the down side of presenting writing as an obligation, something that needs to be done quickly, to specifications, and before a firm deadline. That’s something I’ve always struggled with, even when I was performing professionally. As soon as the fun of auditioning for roles, getting all excited about a production, and throwing myself into the rehearsal process was past and the show had gotten into a stable run, I routinely felt less interested or inspired by what I was doing. Odd, that you can work so hard to accomplish something, wait for talent and luck to kick in and land you a job, and once you’re settled in and gotten what you want, it’s not as fulfilling as it ought to be.

That’s how it is with writing, too. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I’m good at, something that allows me flexibility and freedom most people don’t have. But, still, what seems to be the most exciting aspect of virtually anything is the constant pursuit of the next thing, whatever is unattainable, or at least, relatively hard to get. I like contentment. I like happiness. Yet, they don’t inspire me and get me to challenge myself in the way that obstacles and ambition do. Just settling in to a job—any job, even something I love–and doing it day after day, that’s challenging for me.

My natural inclination is to get bored with things quickly, and to get excited about the next new project on the horizon. This explains the number of unfinished projects that exist in my world at any given time, and why I can’t eat the same thing for dinner two nights in a row. However, I do know there are advantages in constancy and consistency, as well as appreciating the good things inherent in what you have, without always wanting more. Somehow, learning to access the part of my personality that appreciates those things is going to be necessary if I’d like to keep the same job for more than a year.

Then again, I never thought I had it in me to have a committed and long-term relationship with someone living in the same city as I do for more than two years, but somehow, that’s still working out. (despite the numerous bumps in the road that cause me great anxiety and evoke the desire to run at times.) So, perhaps there’s hope for sticking with this particular career path, too.