Being the kind of person who rather believes in the energy of the physical and metaphysical world, and is intrigued by chakras, crystals, phases of the moon, Tarot cards, the Oracle, and the power of the intuition, I tend to pay attention to “signs”. The Guy I Am Currently Dating laughs sometimes, and says “Everything can’t be a sign”–but, really, maybe a lot of things that typically go unnoticed by most people are signs. For instance, my personal symbol is the butterfly, and there are many occasions when I’ve found myself in either an extremely negative or extremely disorienting situation and asked “How in the world did I end up here?”. During those times, I would spot a picture of a butterfly, sometimes at the weirdest of places. I always see it as a sign that my life path has dictated I was supposed to end up there, even if the experience was an unpleasant one. It is part of the journey, marked with a butterfly.

Today is the day of the Harvest Moon, which means that Autumn is on its way. This morning, when I walked my dog, I saw a black cat with amber eyes scurry past my feet. I immediately thought, “I don’t know what that means, but it’s a sign.” I hope it is some sort of good omen, rather than a sign of trouble or chaos. I don’t really need more of the latter!

This summer has gone by in kind of a whirlwind, and it has been one of those rollercoasters that leaves you feeling a bit emotionally drained when all is said and done. I haven’t been the best about remembering to take time out to share all the stories and feelings that have passed through my world with you. Honestly, I haven’t been the best about writing or being creative. Perhaps we all go through those phases, where we feel irrelevant, and as if there’s nothing to say or do or create that hasn’t already been done before–and by someone with a much greater level of talent. While those phases are common among creative souls, I know, they’re also paralyzing. You remain kind of stuck in an unproductive slump, convinced that no matter what you do, it matters very little because you suck.

I am looking forward to the arrival of Autumn, honestly. It’s here early in Atlanta, and I am looking forward to being able to turn off the AC and open the screen door. I’m looking forward to burning apple, cinnamon, and pumpkin candles. I’m looking forward to multi-coloured leaves and changing up my wardrobe (I’m tired of seeing my same summer staples), and having time to myself. This summer flew by because there was always so much going on, and then it always happens that from the beginning of September through mid-October, the number of projects and special occasions and social events is through the roof.

During the summer, I get bored and restless easily. My travel schedule exhausted people, just reading about it. The sheer number of experiences, and emotional highs and lows, which I’m able to pack into a three-month period is nothing short of impressive. However, fall is calming. Perhaps it’s because I moved to Atlanta in September, and I have so many wonderful memories of those first few months I was here. Perhaps it’s because I don’t really like cold weather, but I don’t like being constantly overheated either, and Atlanta has a very small window each Spring and Fall. Each year, from mid-October to December, I don’t feel bored with not going out all the time, and I don’t feel badly about taking time out for myself. I just like the very temporary sense of peace and appreciating life’s smaller moments. I like having the time to write on my blog, read books, watch my favourite shows, wear fuzzy slippers, and not have this overwhelming feeling that life is this mad dash you need to rush to keep up with.

Of course, it’s also a time to focus on earning money for the holidays, so it’s not all stress-free. :( But, all in all, Autumn is quite welcome by the time it comes around. It doesn’t hurt that Halloween is my favourite holiday. :)

It’s not coincidental, I think, that November is National Novel Writing Month. While I’ve never participated, I think I’m not the only one for whom Autumn is a welcome respite, a time to slow down, a time to access all that pent-up, overlooked creativity, a time to reflect on everything that happened during your crazy summer. It always feels like the right time for self-expression and doing what you love, before the holidays come around and everything gets a little hectic again. :)

I haven’t, honestly, worked on many new projects this summer. However, I know you guys have been wondering what I’ve been up to, since I haven’t promoted any projects in a while! I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be contributing to Nerdy Minds, a magazine for the geek-oriented! Even if that doesn’t include you, I’ll be writing about things like dating, relationships, social interaction, and societal issues, so you’ll still want to follow me. My article isn’t up yet, but you can check out my introductory interview at NerdyMinds. Also, please show your love by “Liking” the project on FB, “Liking” the article, leaving a comment for me, and sharing the site with others. Start-up endeavours are always tough to get off the ground, as many of you know all too well! :)

I will be bringing back “Literary Libations”, interviewing up-and-coming indie authors each Sunday, in mid-October. I also have a book in the works, a compilation of short stories on the theme of connection in an increasingly disconnected world.

I’ve missed you all, and hope to spend more time with you as the leaves change….

I have spent so much of my life being the auxiliary piece to the lives of other people, I sometimes don’t really know what it’s like to feel loved and valued and as if I’ve ever been the priority in another person’s life. Perhaps I have been a priority, of course, but I’ve never been the first priority.

Growing up, I was incidental and feelings were highly discouraged. I was loved and praised for achievement by a mother who was proud of what I had to offer, what made me special, rather than what I was—which was nothing terribly special in the grand scheme of things. At a very early age, I learned my father had wished I’d never been born, as a devoted narcissist can’t stand the sacrifice of self that comes with having children, much less a child that learned at a very early age to steal the spotlight.

As I matured and set out into the world on my own, I always had no shortage of lovers, of relationships and flings and other amusements. Almost every single person I ended up with was either completely unsuitable for me, or broadcast vibes loud enough for everyone on Earth to hear. Universally, they seemed to say, “Thank you so much for the good times, but you’re never going to be the kind of girl I see myself ending up with in the end.” It didn’t matter if I helped people find themselves, nurtured their creative work, opened their eyes to new ways of living and thinking—in the end, I was never good enough to be anything but disposable. It’s as if I happened to be this thing created to help people transform and grow, and then I conveniently disappear, leaving them with memories and hopefully a feeling that knowing me had been a learning experience or something that made life better. And, as for me, I was just left with a little more emptiness inside than I had before.

Almost every single person with whom I’ve had a serious relationship is now married, and many have or are expecting children. I know I should be happy when this occurs, but I’m selfish by nature, so I’m not. I can’t help but feel somehow cheated by life, by an endless parade of men for whom I wasn’t good enough—not deserving of the love and fidelity they offer their much sweeter, duller, plainer wives. Perhaps it’s because I’d rather drink and dance on a Saturday night than go to church on Sunday morning, and the things that are most memorable about me aren’t qualities a respectable man thinks of when he considers qualities of his future wife. I can’t help but feel a little angry than an ex-boyfriend who cheated on me more times than I can count, lied to me daily, allowed his parents to treat me like a piece of garbage dragged out of the dumpster, and didn’t have a single picture of me around his apartment (despite photos of family and friends all over the walls) is now with a homely little Southern girl, and they’re a happy family that goes to church and is expecting a child, and his entire family dotes on them. It’s hard to reconcile that scenario with the same way this person and his family treated me, and it breaks my heart, because I wondered so many times, “Why am I not good enough?”

I’ve had close friendships in my life with people who have claimed to fall for me, to want to make me a permanent (if secondary) part of their life…but in every instance, when something came up that presented the opportunity for that person to choose between demonstrating any type of actual real emotional connection and loyalty to me, or choosing another road, the other road was always more appealing. And again, I cried, and wondered what about me was so defective that I wasn’t good enough.

Perhaps the answers are simple. The Guy I Am Currently Dating has a mother who told me, in no uncertain terms, I was not good enough for her son and would never be part of her family. She told me he dated me because he had low self-esteem and not enough confidence to approach the pretty girls he really wanted. I do know that The Guy I Am Currently Dating loves me, but we’ve been together for what is rapidly approaching 5 years. That’s a large percentage of my life, invested in one person…and while he invests in me in many other ways, I’m aware that if I said “It’s been long enough, and this relationship needs to move forward or we need to break up”, he’d cry and leave me behind to move on with my life.

It isn’t the first time I’ve heard that my flaw is simply not being pretty enough to be adequate arm candy for someone looking for a successful and high-powered career, and unfortunately, I’m almost always attracted to men who are talented, ambitious, or both. I’ve heard that my scandalous past, my determination to live life on my own terms, my habit of speaking my mind—well, these things are neither sweet nor classy, and nobody wants pictures of the love of their life plastered on the internet doing shots off of a bar.

What I’ve heard, universally, is “I love you, but…”, “You’re amusing, but….”, “We’ve had great times, but….”, “You’re a cool girl, but….”

And I wonder when someone is going to look at me in a way that isn’t always followed by ellipses. As a friend of mine would put it, when is the fact that I might have an asterisk attached to me going to be irrelevant in comparison to the fact that I’m a fucking awesome person that may just deserve to be loved.

Maybe I am not, and I would simply like to be that person. There’s really nowhere in my life I can turn to without being reminded of all the ways in which I am defective. I am not pretty. I am not talented, I am not ambitious. Worse yet, I’m the sort of ordinary girl who has never learned how to be a sweet ordinary girl. If I’d lived my life as a wallflower, perhaps I’d be more likely to be the naive and inexperienced ingenue almost all men seem to be charmed by. (I was reminded recently by a fight I once had with a drunk friend who told me, “I might have fallen for you if you hadn’t slept with so many men in your life.”) And while it was simply an idiotic and drunken statement, there’s some truth behind it. It is perfectly alright not to be stunningly pretty, not to be successful at something, not to have any specific talents, if you’re sweet, optimistic, and have that little “Suzy Homemaker” thing going on for you. It is expected that somehow, girls who are not really extraordinary in any other way, make up for it by being sweet and amiable, and not exactly worldly. (I have a suspicion that men are terrified of “worldly” women because it causes them to fixate on their own inadequacies, which your average ingenue isn’t equipped to notice…but that’s another story for another day.)

I never learned that lesson, because in my mind, I was always extraordinary. I was always meant for bigger and better things.

It’s easy to become self-deluded, and before you know it, you’ve been married and engaged and had all manner of friends and lovers pass through your life, but you still spend every holiday alone. I spent Easter eating chocolate and watching television while The Guy I Am Currently Dating was with his real family, and all the admirers who claim I am one of the most fabulous girls they’ve ever met are with their wives and girlfriends and children.

I don’t even have many close friends, living where I do, without a car and without a social circle to which I might belong. I can see why I might truly be “not good enough” for anyone, a rapidly-middle-aging, chronically ill former actress/singer/mediocre writer who has few skills and a knack for offending people by saying the things most other people think, but never say aloud. It turns out, there’s reason people conceal their emotions. It’s “polite”, and it’s done so people can have friendships…or at least maintain the illusion of belonging.

I suppose I’m a cautionary tale. If you turn down too many opportunities in your life, or make too many mistakes, you’ll find yourself a person that everyone you know will tell amusing stories about at your funeral…and some will cry, and lament your absence from the world…and others will quietly celebrate at home. But, a majority of the time, you’ll find yourself alone, while the rest of the world goes on with the quiet, ordinary business of living.

I watch this show called “Smash”, about a group of Broadway people putting on a musical about Marilyn Monroe.

Somehow, I think Marilyn would understand where I’m coming from, even though she had the excuse of being beautiful and successful. I don’t think she ever felt loved, or understood, or knew how to be ordinary. I think she spent so much time being an inspiration to everyone else—everyone else who inevitably walked away when inspiration was no longer needed—that she might have been the loneliest person on Earth.

Sometimes, when I hear about people in my life getting married and having babies, I think of that and I feel that way. It isn’t because I want those things, but because deep down, I have this sense of anger that says “I deserved better. Why do other people always deserve the best from those I love, while I’m the one who should settle for something less?”

I don’t want to be that bitter, angry person, but sometimes I am. I suppose it’s because I’m tired of being secondary, tired of being an inspiration, a learning experience, the road not taken, the “if only”, the “I wish things were different”, the “I might have loved you if you weren’t who you are”, the “Why can’t things just stay like this forever, because this is good enough?”

I want to be that thing someone is willing to give up everything for. Why? Because I’m good enough, and because I am so fucking worth it. And I’m so frightened that perhaps I’m the only person in my life who will ever, ever see that.

I suppose this isn’t really the most cheerful topic on which to share my thoughts, but this blog is one that’s been formulating in my head for awhile. If you’re not in the kind of place where reading this is beneficial to you, please, by all means, skip it and come back tomorrow.

One thing I really want to work on this year—-and not just this year, but as a general outlook on life, for the rest of my life— is the idea of living in the moment. For a very long time, I was an expert at this type of outlook, at valuing the “now”, often at the expense of making responsible decisions or practical plans for the future. However, over the past two or three years, something strange has happened. I’ve become very “future-oriented”, the kind of person who books her calendar months in advance and actively works toward long-term goals, and avoids engaging in relationships, friendships, and situations that don’t seem to fit in to my future plans. In short, I’ve become the opposite of who I always thought myself to be, and while I’ve seen some benefits in this newer, more adult way of thinking, I also feel like I’ve lost something important. I’ve lost the ability to appreciate the small things, the joy in today, the light-heartedness that seems to fall by the wayside when you’re always thinking about some other point in time. Over the past year, especially, I’ve become very affected by thinking about the past, and being afraid of the future, and have seemingly abandoned my ability to focus on the present. As a result, I’ve lost some of the joie de vivre that’s always characterised me, and my approach to life.

I think a big contributor to this problem is that, over the past year or so, I’ve become much more aware of the idea of mortality, and for the first time in my life, it’s occurred to me that one day I will not be here—and that mixture of both certainty and uncertainty terrifies me. I’m not sure what’s made this thought so present in my life all of the sudden; it happened a few months before turning 30. Perhaps it’s the simple fear and panic that accompanies growing up, getting older. It could also be that this year really reinforced the idea of being a temporary fixture in life, and threw mortality at me in a very “in-your-face” kind of way. Shootings outside my front window, friends telling me a new story seemingly every month about someone who passed away too young and without warning, friends who are no longer just losing grandparents, but parents, and my own relatives suffering from severe health issues and a general decline of quality of life—all these things are frightening to me, and really force me to think. Unfortunately, I think just a little bit too much already.

The idea of death is certainly not new in my life. I’ve always been a little preoccupied with it, although in a much different way. In my life, I’ve been to more funerals than weddings, and my earliest childhood memory is one of being in a dimly lit hospital room, saying goodbye to a woman I barely remember, one who was very frail, and sad, and had a white bandage wrapped around her head. Later, of course, I realised this woman was my grandmother, who died at age 50 of liver cancer that had spread to her brain. I have no idea why this image sticks with me, and it’s almost more like a scene from a movie, than a memory. However, it was my first exposure to mortality, to saying goodbye, and that’s always monumental. I was just barely 3 years old at the time.

I lost three of my four grandparents before the age of 12, as well as numerous other relatives. I survived two difficult car crashes, and some other thoroughly frightening situations, before the age of 16. I’ve said goodbye to friends, lovers, and classmates barely older than myself. Death and mortality are not new to me. In fact, these events are probably responsible for me living through my teens and 20′s with an approach to life that’s been all about experience, at best, and blatantly self-destructive, at worst. I had the strange capacity for putting myself in risky, threatening, or uncertain situations, and feeling more of a sense of elation, than fear. At one point, I began to identify that I was putting myself in potentially dangerous situations simply for the adrenaline rush. I thought I didn’t care about the consequences, even if the consequences involved me not being here anymore. It turns out, I did care, a great deal—there was just a much more confused, darker part of me that simply refused to acknowledge or think about them.

Then, something happened. Something clicked in my mind, and pointed out my approach to life wasn’t about appreciating life to the fullest, it was about recklessness. Slowly, changes came about in my life, and before I knew it, I’d started to turn into a different person—one that was both me, and a me I didn’t quite recognise.

Oddly enough, the defining point in this process wasn’t getting older, being involved in a long-term relationship, or seeing my friends get married, have babies, and change *their* lifestyles. It was the death of Brittany Murphy, which happened just a few days before I turned 30.

I didn’t know Brittany Murphy. I knew who she was, but wasn’t even a big fan of her movies. However, I was strangely shocked and affected by her death. For two or three weeks afterwards, I read every article the internet posted about her death, and why such a shocking thing would happen, seemingly out of nowhere. It was a depressing, and potentially obsessive new hobby that I really couldn’t quite understand.

And, one day, it hit me. I identified with Brittany Murphy. Reading all these stories about this teenage actress who’d become somewhat lost and directionless in her twenties, struggled against self-destructive behaviour, and was looking to find her place in the world….on some level, it occurred to me that I could be reading my own obituary, and it shocked and saddened me. One article even described her as a “pale-skinned redhead of Irish-Italian descent.”, and the thought coalesced in my mind. I was sad about Brittany Murphy, because in a lot of ways, she was similar to me, and not much older—-and I wasn’t ready to die yet.

Over the past year, the result has been that all my reckless behaviour has seemingly disappeared, and I’ve become much more focused on improving my life, creating things, and defining the kind of person I’d like to be, rather than just simply trying to experience as much as possible. It’s become a looming thought in my head that I might not be here next year, next decade, or at any given point I might like to be here. At some point, it’s a certainty that I won’t be. And those thoughts have made me more frightened of my own mortality than I’ve ever been. Perhaps it’s just because I know for sure that I truly *want* to be here, and for as long as possible. While most people seem to know that inherently, I didn’t always.

Since around the age of 14 or 15, I truly believed I wasn’t going to live past the age of 30. I chalked it up to intuition, psychic dreams, and an ominous feeling like something in life was out to get me. All of my friends have had to hear about the mythical Mack truck, and why I felt making plans for the future unnecessary.

So, it is still strange to me that I’m still here, when for so long, I genuinely believed I wouldn’t be. It is strange to me that all of the sudden, making plans for the future isn’t something scary, but necessary. It is strange that I think about the future in terms of “my future”, as something that applies to me. It’s been a lot to go through, this dramatic psychological shift that happened in a little more than a year, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it or who I am these days.

But what I do know is that it’s more important to me than ever to appreciate life, without focusing on the ever-present threat of death as a natural counterpart. Nobody can go through life thinking “I’m happy I didn’t die today”, without being unhealthily focused on all the things that might present a danger to you. Many people, however, are able to appreciate each day as a gift, separate from the past and the present, and beautiful in its’ own right. I’d like to be one of those types of people.

Recently, I was reading Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”, a well-written memoir of an ordinary guy’s life journey that almost accidentally ended up finding direction via food. I really like Anthony Bourdain, because he reminds me of more than one person I’ve been close to in my life. Perhaps his stories even remind me a little bit of me, although I typically can’t make brownies, much less a souflee.

In any case, his memoir inspired me to think about my own life, and my own crazy journeys, as well as where I am now, and where I might be going in the future.

Looking back, I think I will always remember 2010 as “My Year Of Becoming Respectable”.

It was a rather unplanned and unexpected journey, and one that involved an awful lot of “No” along the way. I’ve discovered that being respectable, at least by society’s standards, is somewhat defined by the ability to behave with moderation and choices that reflect a certain level of self-respect and consideration for others, rather than with unabashed hedonism. Let’s face it, all things considered, I’ve probably never been “respectable”. It’s something that no level of intelligence or talent, high-priced education, connections, or culture can provide, and I’m not sure it’s even positive. It’s more a stamp of approval from society that says, “Thank you for taking the time to conform. You will be rewarded with a regular paycheck, a healthier lifestyle, and less derision from those around you.”

At the same time, becoming “respectable” is also something that’s helped me become a more secure, self-aware human being. I’m no longer that person everyone defines as an unemployed actress or restless 20-something trying to find herself. I don’t have to go crawling home, asking my mom to pay the electric bill because I ran up a $200 martini bill over the weekend. I’m also not that odd, irresponsible person who can stay out all night on a Sunday, get on an airplane because I had a fight with my boyfriend, or move to a different city because I got bored. I have friends that haven’t had to bail me out of jail, seen me naked at a party, and are not concerned that I’ll become a little bit too interested in their spouse. For the first time since puberty, most of those I spend my time with are people I haven’t dated or involved in a crazy situation that’s never to be talked about again.

I’m still not thoroughly convinced I’m a monogamous person by nature, but I’ve managed to spend two and a half years in a happy and thoroughly monogamous relationship, and I haven’t run too far in the process. Although I struggle with the ability to trust any person the way I’d ideally like to, I’ve discovered that there are things about me that are very “relationship-oriented”, and being happy with one person for a long time isn’t out of the realm of possibility for me.

This year, I learned what it’s like to work 8-hour days, and to be accountable to people who aren’t me. I learned about just how hard and challenging it can be to have a relationship with one person, and not go running off when things get hard, or look for someone else when I need something new and different. I learned that you can’t order everything off the menu if you’re wanting to lose weight, and you can’t drink 8 martinis in an evening if you want to be productive the next day. I learned that you have to deal with your fears and the scars the past has left behind if you want to have a future, and no matter how painful that process might be, you can’t forego it or replace it with something more fun. I learned that you can say you don’t care about what others say about you until you’re blue in the face, but at some point, you have to let people in and admit you care more than you should. I learned that it’s not only OK to plan for the future and to expect those close to you to be in it for the long haul, it’s probably a good idea.

I learned that probably around 1% of the population ever meets anyone even slightly good for them at a dance club, and I don’t really miss going there that much at all. In fact, most of what I observe consists of lonely, desperate, and lost people behaving in ways that demean them. Not that all of that doesn’t have a time and place in a person’s life—but I suppose I’m past the point where it fits into mine.

I learned that I’m happier when I like me than when I’m consumed by the need for others to like me. Ironically, it’s since I started caring about that approval and admiration a little less that I started to find more kindred spirits in the world, more people who truly like me for who I am, rather than an image or idea of which they’ve become enamoured.

I learned that moderation doesn’t have to be restrictive, it can also be healthy and normal. That being said, it can also be boring and restrictive. There is definitely room in every life for adventure, for watching the sunrise with friends, for unexpected romance, for forgetting to be “respectable”.

I’d be lying if I said that sometimes, I didn’t miss certain bits and pieces of my old lifestyle. I don’t miss the chaos, the rollercoaster ride that was so often my life, but I miss the spontaneity and sheer good times that are more likely to happen when you’re not thinking about paying the bills, planning for the future, or having balanced relationships with other people. I’d definitely like to put a bit more of the unexpected back into my world, a bit more freedom.

Perhaps 2011 will be my year of “balance”, the year that I continue to work towards some of the goals that inspired my newfound journey toward “respectability”, but recapture some missing pieces of myself—or, rather, pieces that have been put on hold so that I could concentrate on other things. For the first time in a long time, I’m accepting that there probably is going to be a future, and rather than avoiding it or seeing it as a limiting force, I’m looking forward to both success AND adventure.

I think it’s going to be a good year.