Well, somehow, we all managed to make it through 2012, and it’s a New Year. Here in Atlanta, 2013 is starting off the way so many Atlanta days do: it is grey and rainy, and because it’s winter, it’s colder than I would like it to be. It’s the type of day where you plan not to leave the house and to do absolutely nothing, which is what I plan on doing.

2012 wasn’t the easiest year for me, but it was one of small improvements rather than major setbacks and that’s definitely a positive. It was a year where I needed to be consistently reminded, as a good friend likes to tell me, “Two steps forward and one step back still leaves you moving forward, one small step at a time.”


At the end of 2011, I had my tarot cards read. At that point in time, my major life concerns centered around health and money, yet the tarot card reader told me the focus of 2012 would not be on either of those. She indicated that 2012 would be a year of “pause”; one of self-reflection and healing and thinking about myself and my relationships, and what it is I really want out of life.

That, of course, was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear, “You’re going to get better in no time, you’re going to have enough money to live a comfortable life, you’re going to find the type of relationships and friendships you want in your life.” And, indeed, much of 2012 seemed incredibly frustrating because, for me, it was defined by inertia. All around me, 2012 was the year of people falling in love, having babies, getting married, getting great new jobs, moving to new cities, winning honours and recognitions for what they do, stepping outside their comfort zone…and I felt so often stuck, and unhappy. It isn’t pleasant to feel as if you’re watching life move on without you.

Yet, in 2012, I *did* start to get better. If you asked me a year ago what today would be like, I’d tell you I didn’t think I would be here. The symptoms of my illness were that physically and emotionally disabling, I really didn’t see myself recovering: and if I did, I’d never again be the adventurous and passionate and high-spirited person I once was, a realisation that was just as painful. I felt like I suffered a loss that couldn’t ever be rectified.

Of course, like all losses, you slowly learn to adjust and live your life differently. The past year has been filled with loss, really. The passing of two very well-loved and special people in my own little Universe, the random tragedies that are all around us, friends being diagnosed with difficult illnesses—it’s hard not to see loss and contemplate mortality often. The past year has been highly difficult on my relationship. The Guy I Am Currently Dating tells me I’ve changed, that I don’t like him anymore, that the way I communicate with him doesn’t make him feel positively. Yet, from my perspective, I feel like I’m always walking on eggshells, where doing the wrong thing is cause for him to speak to me in a tone of voice that is mean, sarcastic, and condescending. It might be text messaging when he’s around, or paying a bill late and getting a late fee, or saying something twice in an attempt to be helpful, or losing something I should have not lost, or running late to an event, or not showing the right emotional reaction. It seems almost anything can trigger these arguments, which turn into arguments because I refuse to be spoken to in that way, and I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who will sit and glare at me whenever I’ve done something that doesn’t meet expectations. I have to stand up for myself, even though there are usually horrible fights involving yelling and crying and just wanting to disappear. It reminds me too much of how I grew up to feel comfortable and positive to me. I will remember that 2012 is the year Christmas Eve was ruined by this communication impossibility, and so was New Year’s Eve.

I don’t believe I’ve changed. I think he is angry and resentful towards me and it comes out in the way he treats me, quite often. But I can’t change to make him happy, and I can’t spend all my time trying to be perfect or to mollify someone into liking me. I do feel like it shouldn’t be this hard, and I am so sad that it’s taken 4 years to figure out the person in my life is capable of—and will—treat me in the one way I absolutely can’t take: the dysfunctional way in which my family communicates. Obviously, I am equally to blame; he is angry and feels hurt and wants me to be someone different than who I am, someone closer to what he imagines is right for him. He tells me this is not the case, but a more logical, introverted person who is by nature more relationship-oriented might be what it takes for him to find someone who “gets” him, and vice versa. I don’t think we want the same things the long run; I want to leave Atlanta, and he does not. I believe he’s a naturally monogamous individual, and I am not. I need a large circle of friends and acquaintances to be happy, and he does not. He is a nice person, and I think he cares greatly about me: but for some reason, he’s stopped remembering why he likes me…or stopped expressing it.

I feel like I’ve been in this relationship before, and the problem isn’t ever really that I have changed. It’s that I haven’t, when someone else, deep down, expected that I would. I’ve started to pick up on signs that he is acting in an insecure manner about my wanting to have close relationships with other people in my life, something that never occurred in the past. My friendships are very valuable to me—I consider a few of them to be of equal importance to any relationship I’ve ever had—-and I have always been that sort of person. I asked The Guy I Am Currently Dating to give me examples of how I’ve changed in the past year, but everything he mentioned is something I’ve always done, and all the ways in which I make special time and effort in my life for those who matter to me, I do for him, as well. Somehow, he doesn’t feel that way, or doesn’t feel appreciated…and it makes me feel a little like me *not* changing is an issue for him. Or, perhaps it’s simply that he’s changed, and sees me and our relationship differently now.

Either way, I don’t want my life to be defined by conflict and fear of earning someone’s disapproval, because they will visibly withdraw any positive feeling from you, speak to you in a tone designed to make you feel like something on the bottom of someone’s shoe, and if you fight back, you’re starting an argument. I also don’t want to be the cause of someone always feeling bad and unloved and insecure, just because I am who am, and that isn’t naturally compatible with who that person is. It’s always been an issue in our relationship, but it used to be one that happened once every few months. Now it seems to happen every other week. The fact that it happened an hour before 2012 ended—well, I just don’t know that I can spend another year with that same source of anxiety and unhappiness in my life. I want to be loved, but more than that, I want to be understood. I know there are people who can tolerate my presence in the world, who understand my sense of humour and how I view relationships, who empathise with the tough road I’ve traveled, and accept me as a flawed human being. I know I am capable of offering that in return. Maybe neither of us is a bad person….we just don’t bring out the best qualities in one another, and as hard as it is to admit something isn’t working, it’s harder to imagine spending a lifetime in a relationship that makes both people feel badly on a regular basis.

I feel the same way about friendships in my life. As much as it’s hurt me, I’ve had to realise some people aren’t right for me anymore.We don’t hang out simply because they’d rather not hang out with me. In 2012, I was greatly hurt by some people I trusted and gave second chances, despite better wisdom, and paid a pretty hefty price. I’ve come to realise loyalty and knowing someone will always be there for you and be honest with you, no matter what, is the greatest attribute you can find in any friendship. Yet, while I’ve had to go through the sadness and anger of losing people who were once important to me, I’ve also come to expect more from my friendships. I’ve taken the time to really know different types of people, many of whom have been somewhere in my extended friend circle for years, yet not terribly important in my every day life. The fact that two or three of those people have become important in my everyday life has meant a lot to me, even if I had to take chances or face uncomfortable personal issues to allow those people in my world. I think that 2012 was the year that “friendship” was redefined in my world, and reminded me that what I look for in those meaningful friendships differ very little from what I look for in a meaningful relationship. It’s a lesson I wish I’d learned a decade ago, or I’d possibly have taken a very different life journey.

During 2012, it didn’t occur to me that my health was improving. I still couldn’t lose weight, largely due to the medication I still have to take, which affects my self-esteem on a daily basis. I still couldn’t go shopping, or sit in the booth next to the neon sign at Dagwood’s. Yet, all of the sudden, I’d be out at a party and notice that not only was I dancing in flashing lights, but hadn’t worn my sunglasses all night. I took multiple trips to new places by myself, and by the end of December, was sitting in Steak & Shake and neon diners with friends. I went into stores by myself, took the city bus alone for the first time since my illness, and am able to walk more than a mile. Other people have told me they can see a difference, and that makes me happy. The doctors told me I’d never be cured, but within 2-3 years, my symptoms would be manageable. It means a lot to me that about 14 months after getting a diagnosis, I am getting parts of my life back.

I crossed things off my bucket list. I published my first book of poetry, and while I don’t flatter myself that anyone cares, it makes me happy that I’ve done something I’ve always wanted to do. I got up in front of people at Write Club and not only entertained people without being overwhelmed by dizziness, but won my round via the applause of people I never met. Later, I came to meet some of those people, and wished I knew people like that existed in Atlanta 10 years ago.

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions, but I know there are some things I need to focus on in 2013. I need to be a healthier, more independent person. I need to find a job I’m passionate about, or at least have some ability to stick to without getting fired. They always say “Do what you love, and the money will follow”, but what I truly love is having adventures and life experiences that require money. I like enjoying life, helping others enjoy life, and creating or doing things for which I might one day be remembered. I’m not terribly practical or work-motivated, I suppose, and never have been. I’ve never had any idea what my career path might me, and honestly, I still don’t. However, to be self-sufficient, I need money, which means I need a career path and self-discipline. I really feel like that’s something that should be of primary focus for me in 2013. All the goals I have that are centred around me, and not relevant to other people in my life, are goals that require me to have a lot more money than I have in order to be happy. I just don’t see the path right now.

I’d like to meet more people, and spend more time with those who are important to me. Of course, working a set schedule can really interfere with my freedom to do that, but without money, you can’t afford to do that…so there’s a Catch-22. Maybe I’m rather dumb for being the only person who doesn’t approach running a Meetup as a business venture. I’d like to publish another book. If I start now, just by writing a page a day, I’d have a novel in a year. Yet, we all know how tragically bad I am at that sort of long-term focus and self-discipline.

I am not going to the tarot reader this year, but the Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a set of “faery Oracle” cards, and I am going to do a reading today, to see what the cards predict for the next year of my life.

I have a sudden desire to start cleaning things and throwing things away, just to get rid of all the junk and clutter and baggage in my space, and eliminate all the negative energy that’s still taking up space in this apartment. However, I’ll probably just eat lunch and watch a movie.

Happy 2013 to everyone out there, wherever you may be. I hope the next year brings you much love and happiness and prosperity!!

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.

Even though I didn’t really make that many “New Year’s Resolutions”, so to speak, I find myself being very motivated to make positive changes that weren’t necessarily the first things on my list I intended to focus on, but positive, nevertheless. Not only have I been fairly productive about catching up on work and turning out decently creative content over the past few days, I’ve also been spending less time watching TV, and more time catching up on other interests.

When I was in NYC, a good friend of mine gave me a copy of the book “Shopgirl”, by Steve Martin. Even though it’s quite a number of years old, and I’d seen the movie way back when, I’d never gotten around reading it. Of course, I both loved and related to it, as my friend thought I would. The impressive thing about the book is that there’s really relatively little story to it; rather, it’s driven by a fairly impressive amount of character development that makes the story less about what’s happening, and more about the psychology of what’s driving the action. Steve Martin has a unique voice that manages to be at the same time intellectual and removed, and perceptive and empathetic. I really admire artists that have a number of creative gifts, and while I’ve never been the biggest Steve Martin fan, he absolutely commands respect for falling firmly into that category.

Each year, I make a resolution to read at least 100 books I’ve never read before over the course of the year, which typically works out to two books a week for me. Some years, I’ve exceeded the goal, while last year, I fell far short. I’m happy that this book was my first of 2011, since I felt such a strong connection to it. Only 99 more to go!

In addition, I’m a bit of a magazine fan, although admittedly I only seem to read those that are somehow about fashion, celebrity gossip, and entertainment. Since I know I am not that shallow, I decided to add Timeto the list with one of my free subscription offers. It’s actually one of the more worthwhile magazines to read, and may help me stay current with my trivia. ;) I’m catching up on the Person Of The Year issue, which this year, is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, a pretty fascinating character.

I’ve also been in somewhat of a nesting/organizational stage, since we signed the lease on my apartment for another 6 months. Whenever I find out I’m going to be staying put for awhile, I go through a few weeks where I’m very committed to wanting to improve my surroundings, and create a place that feels as much like “home” as possible. Even though I won’t be getting, or even renting, the thing I truly want—a cute little townhouse— anytime soon, I’m still indulging my “nesting” instinct, and attempting to Alayna-fy my apartment as much as possible. To that end, I ordered a few post-holiday sale items, including a bookcase for my bedroom, and a short little shelving unit to provide some additional storage space in the living room. Of course, it’s that inexpensive laminate particle board stuff that will end up being donated to a recently-divorced friend in a few years, and requires me to put it together, but a small investment for my greater nesting needs.

I also cleaned out my closet a bit, and tossed out old clothes, trash, and everything else that’s lurked but been totally forgotten for a year. In the end, I had four boxes of trash to show for my labour, which gives an indication of the extent to which I am not a naturally organized human being. I think it’s so much a part of my fundamental personality, that it’s not even worth making a resolution about. *laughs*

The most impressive of the “new year, new lifestyle” changes I’ve made, however, has to be the fact that I used my oven tonight, and cooked a dinner that included all the major food groups, and was still under 400 calories. Since losing weight, getting in shape, and developing healthier eating habits are going to be a focus for me in 2011, I felt proud of myself for starting out on the right foot.

Now, if only I could get all the work done I told myself I’d complete today….but not only am I running low on hours, I’m running low on energy, and developing a large headache. A few hours away from the computer may do me a world of good.