As you may have noticed, I haven’t been around much for the past 6 weeks or so. Perhaps you didn’t notice, and I give myself more credit for having consistently interested readers than I deserve. *laughs* In any case, I haven’t been around the blogosphere too much. I’m not sure why, other than I have been feeling overwhelmed with actual day-to-day life. While my usual compulsion is to share all these things, it just hasn’t been that way. Frankly, I haven’t felt much like writing at all. My bank account looks sad and desolate, my paper journals haven’t been touched by ink in weeks, and while I did manage to start a short story for my upcoming collection (short story currently 20 pages and counting), it’s looking like my goal of having another published work out by December isn’t a realistic one.

I wonder if we all go through these crises of being, where we wonder if we have anything worth saying or creating, or if we are in fact people that anyone else cares about at all. I’ve been struggling with feeling irrelevant. Perhaps I haven’t been inspired to write because I’ve given up the idea that there’s an audience that cares, or that I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said before, and in much more compelling and eloquent ways. I’ve been struggling with feelings that in my everyday life, I am not only irrelevant but inadequate, and it’s turned me from a vivacious extrovert to someone who has become resigned to being a wallflower. I have not been as social as usual, preferring the company of my closest friends to parties, and feeling as if organizing things to do has become an obligation rather than things I can look forward to each week. I feel I am not interesting enough, not intelligent enough, not beautiful enough, not thin enough, not likeable enough, and not skilled enough in social situations to keep being the me I have always been. I do not know where this self-doubt comes from, but I have been paralyzed by it in many ways. I have this feeling that those in the world I love do not love me in return, and if they do, they should not, because I am too damaged and inadequate that anyone should spend time, emotion, or anything else on me.

Thus, I have been largely quiet on the blog, because people read blogs for interesting and inspiring stories—or at the very least, to be amused. I’m terribly un-amusing lately.

I will catch everyone up in longer posts on individual subjects, but here are some of the things that have happened to me during the past two months.:

* I’m sure I haven’t been gone thatlong, but I spent half of July reviving Alayna’s East Coast Tour. I was able to spend a week at the beach, visit my family, and see some of my favourite people who don’t live near me in Philadelphia, NYC, D.C., and Raleigh-Durham.

* Shortly after returning to Atlanta from visiting my family, I got news my mother was in hospital. She had yet another stroke and possible cardiac event, and for almost two weeks, did not know simple things like what year it was, who anyone was, and was unable to speak coherently without effort or get around without a wheelchair. Fortunately, she recovered, and was moved to a rehab facility. After she completes rehab, my mother will be moved to a permanent nursing facility. I cried after I left my family home, not only because of how they were living, but because I felt I’d never be back. I am an intuitive person, and it was a loss that hit hard, even before my mother ended up in hospital.

* All sorts of family drama ensued regarding power of attorney over my mother’s medical and financial decisions, her personal wishes, who pays the bills for her treatment, my 92-year-old grandfather’s will, etc. It is sad that when something happens to someone, the response from others seems to be “How does this affect me? How do I benefit?” I do not want to be involved in any of the family drama, and for all intents and purposes, I am happy that I was “written out of everyone’s will” many years ago. In my mind, it was the price of freedom and being able to live life on my own terms without being accountable to the idea of how others would have liked me to live. (yeah, how’s that working out for me? :P ) Yet, it makes me sad to hear how selfish and petty people are, people who are my blood relatives.

* Once all the family drama settled down, it was time to concentrate on costumes, house cleaning, event planning, etc. for DragonCon. I am very thankful that a good friend of mine was able to stay at my place and look after Trixie (my 13-year-old Lab/Beagle mix.), and that The Guy I Am Currently Dating took care of a lot of the trip planning. It was fun, but exhausting. It did push me past my physical limits right now, and was a reminder to be more careful about doing what’s best for my health and well-being, rather than being concerned about being a disappointment or liability to others.

* September is the month of events, as I have something going on every weekend until mid-October. Then, a short break, and it’s time for Halloween!

* As always, I’ve been addicted to my summer TV shows, and have watched a lot of Big Brother. It is the 15th season (the 13th year), which makes me feel quite old, because it was Season 1 when I was an alternate for the show. It’s funny to remember how young I was then, and what I would have been like to watch on reality TV at the age of 20. I thought I was the most interesting person in the world back then, and for many years following. Now, I feel inadequate in almost every way possible. It’s interesting how things change.

Sadly, my favourite contestant will likely be given the boot from the show tonight (marking the first time that my favourite hasn’t ended up winning in a few years.), and my original favourite contestant will likely be following her shortly. Just like in life, the smartest or most determined people don’t always win.

* Other shows I’ve been into include Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and “Dance Moms”, MTV’s “Catfish” (I still have a huge crush on Nev Schulman, and find it amusing that his older brother went to school with me, something I didn’t know until sending out a friend request on FB! What a small world it is!) and “The Challenge”, and a few others I watch sporadically. I’ve been reading, although not as much as I usually do. I finished Phillipa Gregory’s “The White Princess”, and am currently working my way through the letters of Simone de Beauvoir, after reading a biography of Sartre and de Beauvoir given to me by a friend. (although polyamory and open relationships have been around as long as time itself, it seems these two were the first to really define it as a lifestyle that worked—well, most of the time– they needed some work in the honesty department, it seems. *laughs*)

The Guy I Am Currently Dating got me into two shows we watch together: “Wilfred” on FX, which ranges from crude to absurd to philosophical, and “Ray Donovan”, which is the kind of drama I like quite a bit. If you get Showtime, I highly recommend it.

I haven’t yet seen “The Great Gatsby”, but I’d like to, as soon as I have some free time. I know it isn’t fabulous, but I do love the 20′s and Leonardo DiCaprio. *laughs*

* Oh, and yes, I finally did get money refunded from the hotel fiasco in Manhattan. It only took a month, and you can count on the fact that there will be a blog about that coming up shortly. ;)

For those who also follow me on Facebook, I’ve definitely been around, even while kind of ignoring my blog. I’ll have to try to be a little more inspired in the future. ;)

This Mercury retrograde, which lasts from November 6th through the 26th, is one that’s particularly well-suited for looking back, for reminiscing, for getting and keeping in touch with people from the past while still knowing how to move forward. Oddly enough, this has turned out to be a time where life’s circumstances have conspired to have me do just that. I’ve been reminiscing in a way that makes me run the entire gamut of emotions in a relatively short period of time; a way that makes me wonder how I’ve gone through so much in a period of time that seems like a lifetime, yet will hopefully only be a fraction of my life.

I am an odd person in many respects, and when it comes to interpersonal dynamics, there is certainly no exception there. I am a “highly sensitive personality”; when I choose to, I feel things on a level that most others don’t. I am extremely loyal, extremely loving, extremely unforgiving when I deem it necessary. I am extremely intuitive when it comes to some people. I will sense things from them from a tone of voice or a simple gesture, and be emotionally affected by what most would dismiss as “nothing”. It doesn’t happen with everyone in my life, but with those with whom I happen to share that connection, I can’t help but notice and I’m usually right.

Yet, most of the time, I don’t let that level of feeling colour the way I interact with others. I am the queen of the flirtatious quip, the witty comeback, the sarcastic remark. I often brush my own feelings aside, if they seem messy or uncomfortable, choosing the option that makes it possible to laugh and view life through more light-hearted glasses. Inadvertently, it often seems I brush the feelings of others aside in the same way, and it isn’t that I don’t care. Quite the contrary; I’m often afraid of caring too much.

I’ve always been like this. I’m the girl who will catch you off-guard and have you telling your life story to someone you never considered opening up to, or who will seduce you or charm you and leave you wondering why, and what the hell happened. Yet, I’m also the girl who will make a great show of not letting anything mean too much, of being emotionally inaccessible to others. I can remember spending time, a few years ago, with a guy who had a reputation for being a player. Knowing this, when he pursued me, I used my wit and rather aggressive sense of sexuality to let him know I’d beat him at his own game. I don’t think he believed me, but I did. Weeks later, I heard through the rumour mill that he was gossiping to mutual friends about my rather unfeminine “player”-like behaviour.

I remember being surprised, because in my mind, I was playing a game on terms with which he was very familiar, rules where “Don’t get invested” and “Emotional connection is not applicable” were necessary to avoid being hurt. It never occurred to me that I might have hurt him in the process by not making myself available, by dismissing him as a person, by making him feel as if I didn’t care to know him. I am not that person, by any means. I simply find it easy to deal with relationships on another person’s terms, if they seem mutually in line with my own. It didn’t ever occur to me to think that *I* am the one who has multiple tactics for deflecting vulnerability, for avoiding complex emotions and feelings that have no easy explanation. “I’m an emotional person” always seemed to be explanation enough to make it unlikely that *I* was the one avoiding emotional intimacy.

In fact, I invite emotional intimacy. I thrive on it. It is an essential ingredient in every single meaningful friendship or relationship in my life. I view those uncomfortable with it almost as a challenge, and it is not unusual that emotional intimacy turns into physical or romantic or intellectual intimacy.

As it turns out, I then do the oddest thing…I back off. I seem, as a dear friend of mine once characterised it, “aloof”. In some cases, I genuinely hurt other people in an attempt to make it clear that I don’t need anyone getting too close, and I have no desire to be hurt by the repercussions of getting too close to anyone else. In some ways, I wonder if this is why I’ve so adamantly refused to be swayed by arguments for monogamy over the years, why I don’t “fall for people” and behave as my friends do as the result of a new relationship. There’s something about me needing to maintain a certain level of control and autonomy and reassurance that I will not be left wounded and unprotected, when all is said and done.

Looking back, I realise there have been a number of people in my life whose feelings I should have taken more seriously, handled with greater respect. There are people in my life, both in my past and in my present, for whom I have a greater level of feeling and attachment than I will ever admit. It is easier to keep such things to myself, to not take chances on things that “probably aren’t meant to be”, and keep the people in my life, and my feelings for them, in their proper places.

Sometimes, this is wise. Some of these people are individuals whom I clearly see, looking back, had a fundamental incompatibility with me. Others, we just never got the timing right. But, in so many cases, people have affected my life more deeply than I ever let on, as if letting someone else know I cared and believed they might occupy a space in my life–past, present, and/or future—was a weakness unworthy of me. Many of these people went on to marry other people, build families, build connections. Still others went on to become secondary partners with whom I’ve had more enduring and loving relationships than any primary partner, something that leaves me wondering “Why did we never pursue this before it was too late?”

Sometimes, you don’t listen to that intuitive voice, because it tells you things that are scary or don’t make enough logical sense, and it’s easier to dismiss it. Sometimes, you realise just how different your life would have been if you did listen, if you’d told someone else to wake up and pay attention and listen, too.

I always thought I was the kind of person who took chances, but the truth is, there are so many I didn’t. Perhaps it was intuition telling me it was a road better avoided, but more likely, it was just the decision of a rather directionless, emotional girl afraid of the consequences she associated with being hurt. That can lead to a lot of roads-not-taken, or even to active destruction of the path that you see ahead.

Someone told me recently I would never be the type of writer I wanted to be if I kept placing restrictions upon myself. He doesn’t know me, at all, but he’s right. Even at my most trouble-causing, devil-may-care, consequence-free way of living, there’s always been something in the back of my head that reels me in, that places limitations, that tells me how far I can go.

I have had a lot of great relationships in my life. Some people claim they’re not settled down because they just never met that right person. I’ve met a lot of people who could have been that person, if the timing was right,if the circumstances were right, if there weren’t obstacles and incompatibilities, and every other “if”. The truth is, I never settled down because I never met the person who made me want to feel emotionally available enough to make that happen, who saw the world as I did, who viewed relationships and personal growth as I did. I can’t feel too sad about that, but every now and then, you realise “If only we’d met when I’m at this point in my life, not where I was a decade ago, I think the story would be slightly different.”

I think I’m more emotionally available now, but I still keep my guard up. I still have a lot of defense mechanisms designed to convince others—and myself—that I care less than I do, as if somehow, caring less simplifies things and makes relationships stronger. The right person always sees through those attempts, and no matter what you do, the truth is the truth. Feelings are feelings. You can’t explain them, or rationalise them, or decide why it’s most advantageous you make them disappear. Sarcastic quips and keeping things on a superficial level aren’t strategies that work, not with those who are truly meant to be in your life.

I don’t understand, always, why certain people are meant to be in my life, and what space they’re meant to occupy. I realise that mostly, only time will tell, but that requires being open to options that don’t exactly fit with how you see things. It requires the lack of hubris necessary to admit that how you see things may not always be right, and your perspective skewed or limited or coloured by where you are in your personal life journey.

Looking back, I wish I knew many things then I know now, because there are some different roads I may have ended up traveling. Yet, everything happens for a reason, and I think the lesson I’m learning is that for all my insistence on openness and authenticity and taking chances, I have a long way to go. I may be a sensitive person who understands feelings a little better than many, yet when it comes to true and authentic bonds with other human beings, I freak out a little. I avoid, I deflect, I make them less than they are. I see potential in things, and if it isn’t convenient, I will make it less than it could be to avoid the emotional impact. In doing so, I actively don’t take the chances I think I’m taking.

I talk the talk, and don’t walk the walk…and I think it’s taken me 10 years to realise that. Perhaps that’s some of the reason certain people have avidly disliked me over the past decade. I’m not comfortable with any situation where the definition of the rules and parameters of the relationship or emotional investment isn’t under my control.

Hi. I’m Alayna. I’m a control freak, even though I’ve spent my whole life thinking I’m anything but. And I think that just maybe, keeping myself from getting hurt is keeping me from possibilities that have great potential to change my life. I’m spontaneous, but I dislike genuine change. I’m overly dramatic and over-romantic, yet I am uncomfortable with real and honest emotions. I’m unconventional and want to refuse to play by society’s rules, yet I feel a tremendous amount of guilt and conflict and fear over defining my own.

I am hypocritical, or maybe just scared and confused. Part of me wonders if it’s time to grow up and move past that. If I don’t now, another 10 years may go by, and I’ll be looking back in exactly the same way.

There once was a woman who had one hundred faces. She showed one face to each person, and so it took one hundred men to write her biography”.

—Anais Nin

I must say, people end up on my page looking for some bizarre, dark, and morbid things. My analytics program has told me that recently, people found my page by Googling for “Amy Winehouse casket photos”, “Amy Winehouse autopsy photos”, and “Deaths On Atlanta Subway”.

Ugh. For those who don’t know me, I might have a very dark, Gothic kind of streak that runs through me, and I might think vampires are sexy (the Anne Rice ones, not the 16-year-old effeminate boys that glitter.), but I’m actually possessed of a pretty fragile constitution when it comes to blood, death, gore, and all that other stuff. I haven’t seen a horror flick since I was 11. You’ll never see any sort of blood or graphic violence on these pages. In fact, I’ve had to recently start de-friending well-meaning people on Facebook because they’re putting up pictures of cute dogs saying “This is Fido’s last day on earth. He will be executed tomorrow”, or because they’re putting up photos of abused children to let us know this is what happens when we don’t care. I’m all for the well-meaning causes, but my sensitive nature can’t handle seeing the photos and being reminded of the cruelty that surrounds us every day.

Anyhow, I’d originally meant to write about a topic that’s gruesome and heartbreaking in a completely different way: rejection.

I don’t think rejection is an experience any of us takes particularly well, because the natural response to being rejected is one of “What’s wrong with me? Why am I not good enough?” Sometimes, there are answers to that question: there are reasons you didn’t get the job you wanted, or a guy/girl you liked never called you back, or you put yourself out there and things weren’t a rousing success. Other times, though, that’s just the way things are, and nothing about you or how you handled the situation could have changed the outcome.

I have a number of talented, intelligent, beautiful friends in the world that I see limiting themselves due to fear of rejection, and this behaviour is so ingrained in them, I don’t think they recognize it. I have a friend who is one of the smartest people I know, but never puts himself out there to get rid of the job he hates, allowing him to find out what he really wants to do. I have another friend who is so physically attractive that there is never anyone who doesn’t notice her when she is in the room…but she lacks the confidence to go anywhere by herself, or to approach strangers without the company of a friend. The more I look around my world, the more I see tons of examples like this.

Growing up in the world of performance, I experienced a lot of rejection at an early age. It’s one world in which going on a job interview is liable to give you feedback that is hurtful enough to make you cry on the spot, but you don’t. It hurts everyone in the world to hear you’re not talented enough, not attractive enough, not graceful enough, too short or too tall, too fat or too skinny, or that you should consider cosmetic surgery to improve your image. It hurts every single person who’s been told they’re forgettable, or come across as someone the average person will dislike. But it’s part of the job, so you go home, you cry, you think mean, negative things about yourself, you think mean, negative things about everyone else, and you go to the next audition, and the next, and the next.

I also didn’t necessarily grow up in the healthiest, most loving family environment, and hearing a list of the ways in which I failed or wasn’t good enough was a weekly, if not daily, concern. The result was a tendency toward perfectionism: I told myself I would keep on working and unfailingly try to improve myself until everyone loved me and found me irresistible.

Of course, this is a far from healthy mindset, particularly when it leads you to secret, in-the-closet self-destructive behaviour, as it did for me…and many like me. But it never occurred to me that I couldn’t handle rejection or I didn’t like myself. Instead, I spent a lot of time looking at myself from a cold, almost removed point of view, seeing everything there was not to like about me and vowing to become a more perfect person. I thought being perfect would lead me to being loved, and until I got there, I didn’t deserve love or appreciation.

It wasn’t until after I moved to Atlanta and stopped performing that these issues became apparent. I didn’t love myself, and I didn’t truly expect anyone else to love me, but I’d gotten so used to hiding behind a wall of arrogance and fearlessness that said “Fuck you, I don’t care if you like me or not.”, that I didn’t consider it a problem. When a relationship ended or I got fired from a job, I didn’t handle it well. But I had no doubt that life would go on, and that jobs and relationships were replaceable. And at the same time, I was crumbling from the weight of my own imperfection.

At the end of a particularly difficult and intense relationship, I asked my partner how he didn’t know for sure that I wasn’t the right person for him. (He’d suggested we “take a break” and “see other people”, which, in my years before discovering the world of polyamoury, translated to “I’m really just over you”…which, in many cases, it does.) I remember standing in front of the coat closet in my apartment, and him saying, “I know, because when I look around the world and see attractive, capable, confident women, I find myself wondering what it would be like to be with them instead of you.”

And that was the first time I realised just how brutal rejection can be for certain types of people. It isn’t just about hearing “no”. It’s about something more personal, all the ways in which you’ve failed—failed to be perfect, failed to live up to “potential”, failed to make someone else happy. That failure has always been something I can’t live with, something I struggle with on a daily basis.

People often tell me I’m socially fearless. I’ll go up to anyone and introduce myself. If I’m attracted to someone, I’ll let that person know in a pretty straightforward way. I’ll sit in a formal restaurant by myself, and take the NYC subway home at 5 AM alone. I’ll travel the world myself…and in some ways, prefer that. There are few “dares” that get a flat refusal from me.

On the inside, though, I’m constantly struggling with the fear that someone won’t like me….and it’s no accident that I’ve not only gone through my life encountering people who don’t like me, but despise everything I embody and actively work to humiliate me or bring me down. I’m constantly struggling with the knowledge that I’m not as beautiful as this person, as smart as this other person, as gracious and likeable as another. Some days, I wonder how or why anyone could love me at all…because I never figured out how to be perfect. I never figured out, even, how to look in the mirror and see someone others will like.

I still often have the desire to act out in self-destructive ways nobody ever has to know about, to add to my list of imperfections. I often wish I could just escape from the world at large for a few months, and re-emerge as a happier, skinnier, more attractive, more accomplished, healthier person. I never do these things, but the desire for that to happen doesn’t disappear…and the belief that I’m surrounded by people who love and support me despite being so imperfect never quite sinks in.

I’m writing about this topic because recently, a few people have talked to me about how hard it is to meet people, how dating is a challenge, and even approaching people can be difficult. I do understand. Particularly in Atlanta, a city besieged by the “If everything about me appears perfect, everyone will love me” mentality, the tendency to get to know others for who they are is often not there…because it requires a vulnerability people aren’t willing to reveal. I understand just as well as anyone. In some ways, this is the worst possible place for someone with my particular set of issues to live (though Dallas is very close behind, and Miami even worse.) , because it’s filled with people with the same issues and insecurities who also have the money and the dedication to do something about what they don’t like in themselves, whether it’s apparent in a high-powered job, a new car, perfect teeth, discrete nips and tucks, or the need to appear like a carbon-copy of their best friends.

I’m not socially fearless, by any means. But what I’ve learned is that if you don’t forget about yourself long enough to reach out to others, you’ll spend your life by yourself. Nobody is perfect, nobody is out of your league, and even if rejection hurts, it doesn’t always have a single thing to do with you. No matter how great you are, everyone will not like you. Everyone will not be charmed by you, find you attractive, or even care to converse with you. Some may even instantly dislike you, for reasons that don’t matter and you may never know.

The important thing is that some people WILL like you, find you attractive, want to get to know you, see something special in you. And the person you’re afraid to talk to? Well, he or she has a secret list of insecurities and fears and baggage just as long as yours.

So, talk to a stranger. Go to a movie by yourself. Apply for a job you don’t think you’re good enough to land. Ask that person you’ve had a secret crush on to go out on a date. And if there are things you’d like to improve about yourself, whether it’s getting in shape or going back to school, it’s never too late to make those changes. In fact, if you’re like me, you try to re-commit yourself to building a better life pretty frequently.

Being open to whatever comes along seems to work the best for me. Trying too hard to make things work and beating myself up over my repeated “failures” is a personal self-destructive trigger, and will send my life in a direction I’d rather not go. In the immortal words of a legend, “You can’t always get what you want..but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

Life has a way of pointing that out…even if you don’t know what you need, the Universe sometimes seems to.

Forget about yourself for a little while. Try. Take a chance. Put yourself out there. And whatever comes back, know that you’re better for the experience, because it’s never about the results. It’s about knowing you don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved, liked, appreciated, or successful. If you did, none of us would ever be happy or do anything worthwhile.

Writing for a living means I am far less chatty on my blog, which is ironic, seeing as I finally got around to re-claiming my domain and reconnecting with my great love of emotional exhibitionism.

This week, I signed a new client, which is good news. Even better, it’s the first client I’ve encountered who actually wanted to pay me more than I was asking, simply because he thought I should be asking for more.

It’s a good rule of life to live by, really. If you go through life undervaluing yourself, and expecting others to undervalue you in the same way, you’ll never know what you’re capable of. I have a tendency to do this, because I get too comfortable in the familiar, too frightened of losing what’s important to me. I hang on to jobs that don’t pay as well as they should, relationships that don’t work, friendships that bring me more aggravation than happiness, even when I know I deserve better.

I’m not sure if it’s really that I undervalue myself; after all, some might tell you I value myself a bit too much. Yet, there is some part of me that is not only unwilling to give up on things that don’t quite work, but wants to cling to them, even when it is to my detriment.

And, so, it’s eye-opening to me when a perfect stranger appreciates the value of something I do, and asks me why I am not asking for more. I don’t have an answer to that, other than to look at myself and my life, and say, “Well, I guess that’s definitely something I do.”

It *is* something I do. Really, though, it probably shouldn’t be.