“Average. It was the worst, most disgusting word in the English language. Nothing meaningful or worthwhile ever came from that word.”
― Portia de Rossi, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Today, I wasn’t feeling entirely well, and while I was resting and thinking about what today’s blog topic should be, I drew a blank. The only thing that popped into my head was the Sesame Street song from my childhood, “C Is For Cookie”.

It also got me to thinking how as a teenager, the same kids who learned along with that song would sing it in relationship to grades (since a C or above constituted a passing mark). It was, in a way, a song about accepting mediocrity and the realisation that sometimes, just squeaking by got you the same results as trying extremely hard.

Like many people in my generation, I suffer from a love-hate relationship with both laziness and perfectionism, which are often two sides of the same coin. Of course, sometimes laziness is just laziness–a lack of focus, a lack of discipline, not feeling like doing something because it’s hard and not that much fun. On the other hand, often laziness covers up the feelings that lurk behind laziness: You can’t fail if you don’t even try.

I think this is a common problem amongst people who describe themselves as lazy, ordinary, or not really that great at things. I know it always has been for me; all the auditions I never went to, the stories I never submitted, the books I never published, the jobs I never applied for, I tend to let people think didn’t work out because I’m a bit lazy, a bit disorganised, a bit immature. But the truth of the matter is, although I am a little bit of those things, I also consider myself an extremely ordinary person. There is always a voice in my head that says, “You aren’t special, and you’ll never be good enough.” I don’t know where the voice comes from. If anything, I spent most of my time until my early 20’s being an overachiever. If there was something I could do, I wanted to do it better than anyone else. If there was something I couldn’t do well–say, perhaps, playing volleyball or figuring out how to put furniture together– I tended to not try at all.If I didn’t even reasonably stand a chance at being the best at something, I didn’t do it at all.

This problem has followed me into adulthood, and left me with issues regarding laziness, procrastination, and a general lack of self-esteem. Recently, I had a dream in which I was attending an audition where all the other girls there were tall, beautiful, sexy, charismatic, and danced perfectly…and then there was me, kind of resembling Mary Catherine Gallagher from the infamous SNL “Superstar” skit.

Tonight, before I wrote this blog, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I watched an episode of The Goldbergs, and in it, the teenage daughter–who is actually pretty, bright, popular, and talented—decides she wants to become a pop star, like most teenagers somewhere along the way. Most kids want to be an actor, a singer, a movie star, the President, anything but an ordinary person. There is this feeling of “If only I were special, life would be easier”, and for some of us, that doesn’t go away with age. In the show, her parents attempt to crush her unrealistic dreams, but what does that is realising that every girl her age thinks they are just as special, just as talented, just as likely to be famous someday. Everyone shows up to the rock concert with a homemade demo, hoping something wonderful will happen and someone will say, “Wow, you’re really special”.

But it doesn’t happen, because in reality, most people don’t have extraordinary gifts. And for people like me, who grew up with very high expectations and surrounded herself with high-achieving, way-more-perfect people all the way into adulthood, the hardest thing to come to terms with is “being ordinary”. If you happen to be able to do a whole lot of things averagely well, is anything about you special at all? Should you even bother doing those things, knowing that so few people will ever really notice? Should you bother to speak if nobody’s listening? If you’re in a group of people where everyone is more accomplished, better-looking, more intelligent, more charming, is it normal to feel so inadequate you wish you could disappear–and wonder if anyone sees you?

I don’t think it is, and “not being special” has held me back from doing a lot of things and taking a lot of chances. I’ve always waited for the “someday” when I was more perfect, and as karma and time would have it, you often become more damaged and less perfect as time goes on. I do not even want people to see me until I’m able to be the person I could and should be, because I can’t stand being the one in the group who isn’t good enough, whom everyone laughs at.

I don’t know why I am this way; the same quality that’s led me to have a larger-than-life personality and a unique appearance and a quirky way of looking at and experiencing the world hides a very deep insecurity, one that says “When I try to be like everyone else and accept being just an ordinary person, nobody knows I’m here”.

The “C Is For Cookie, And That’s Good Enough For Me” mentality was never one I could deal with…yet looking at myself realistically, as an adult, I’m a C kind of person, one who isn’t going to be famous or change the world or be the most interesting person in the room. I’ll usually be less interesting in a social setting than my prettier friend, less noticeable in intelligent conversation than my more accomplished friend, less everything in most situations.

And somewhere along the line, I know the trick is stop caring how other people see you–even if you agree with them—and to just be happy with the little things. It is important to just accept being you.

It was much easier when we were all kids and were willing to make fools of ourselves because we genuinely thought we were showing the world we were special. In reality, that confidence and courage is special, because most of us don’t have it as adults. Not even people like me, who wear glitter and fascinators and have loud voices, and “suck all the air out of the room”. Not even that guy or girl with the great job, the perfect hair, the “just came from the gym” body, and all the friends. Not the woman who has all the kids but manages to still do everything perfectly. We’re all kind of faking it, hoping the world will see something better than a C. So many times, we don’t try, because we’re afraid that the only thing worse than failing is being unremarkable.

Today, I wrote this blog. It was not a masterpiece, and it was perhaps not even very good. It is sitting on the internet, where people, many of whom are better writers than I am, might read it and laugh at it.

I’m learning to be OK with that, because C is for cookie, and at some point, that has to be good enough for me.

C is also for courage, and I sometimes like to think it takes a little of that to write about what everyone else is feeling, but would never tell you.

A lot of the time, I am afraid I am not good enough and there never will be anything remarkable about me. What gives me comfort is knowing I can’t possibly be the only one who feels this way.

The Guy I Am Currently Dating told me I could have a special surprise if I finished this blog before midnight, and I did. I’m going to laugh if it happens to be a cookie.

Earlier this month, I came across a great book called 365: A Year Of Journal Prompts, and promptly added it to my Kindle. It was one of my intentions this year to focus on my writing as something I like to do, rather than something I need to do, which is often what I feel when a specific deadline is looming over my shoulder.

When I had my tarot cards and my astrological chart read for the upcoming year—by two different sources, incidentally—both told me that 2012 was going to be a year for life to be put on “pause”, rather than one of adventure or decisive action. This made sense to me, since I knew a main focus of my year would be concentrating, little by little on improving my well-being, on getting on a path where managing my illness doesn’t have to zap my strength or dictate my mood or my life. At first, I was extremely depressed about this. I’m the sort of person who likes big gestures, fast solutions to problems, impulsive reactions, instant gratification. Learning there was no surgery, no magic pill, no quick fix that would take me back to the person I was plunged me into a state of depression for about two weeks. To some, it would be encouraging to hear that with time and patience and the willingness to face fears and anxieties, life would steadily get better. But for me, the eternal realist (and often pessimist), all I heard were words like “chronic condition” and “permanent damage” and “physical and emotional rehabilitation.” All I heard was that I wasn’t going to magically get my life back, I wasn’t going to be able to just ditch the drug that caused me to gain over 20 pounds and zap my energy level, I wasn’t going to be the person I used to be for a very long time.

I didn’t react very well to learning that it would be a year of “pause”, because there are so many things with which I am discontent, things I’d like to change about my life. Shortly after the disheartening news about my life came disheartening news about my job, which no longer gives me the economic and practical sense of stability it once did. I am again a starving artist, uncertain about the future, not sure where life will take me. I used to enjoy that uncertainty at one point in my life, but now, it causes me anxiety. Ironically, both my tarot reading and astrological chart for the year told me that I could expect to experience setbacks, which were necessary to my greater success in life.

Another thing that my tarot reading mentioned was that I have a lot of “success” aspects in my cards, in my natal chart, in what’s perceived to be my personality in general. Countless times, psychics and astrologers and tarot readers and other intuitives have told me that I will have great material success in my life, thanks to my ambition and determination. I always laugh at this, sitting there with no long-term career prospects, a retired actress that no longer has the looks or charisma or talent to perform, a chaotic dreamer with little business sense, a person who keeps getting knocked down by life every time success gets anywhere close. Yet, year after year, they tell me this same thing. Contrary to what my mother always advised me to do, it is not that I will marry well. I will be the one in control of building an empire for myself.

I can’t say I put a ton of stock into all that sort of thing, but it’s amusing to have someone predict your fortune. Sometimes, though, it goes beyond uncanny to relatively specific details that don’t necessarily apply to everyone..and then you have to start to wonder. Is there really such a thing as someone with the gift of intuition enhanced to the point that they can see into who you are, as well as who you might become?

This success thing has always baffled me, because I have always seen myself as someone ill-equipped for success. At this point in my life, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that sometimes I have so many dreams and ideas and thoughts and things I wish to communicate swimming around in my head, that I’m not sure what to do with them. More often than not, I ignore them, and go back to my daily routine. I take my anxiety pill and try to relaaaaaaaaax.

I read somewhere recently that anxiety was an artist’s natural response to pent-up emotion, to not being given an adequate creative outlet. After that, I got this idea in my head that I was going to compile my poetry, even if I never published it. I was going to write a book of fiction, even if I never let another person read it. And I was going to use my blogs and journals to release whatever it was that was hiding, causing my sudden shift from free-spirited example of joie de vivre to being physically and emotionally overwhelmed by too much life. Is it really as simple as a nerve in my inner ear that doesn’t know how to calm down, that freaks out when it’s given too much information to process, and responds with demands for anti-anxiety pills and alcohol and silence? Or is it some other newly discovered fear in my life that’s erected a road block, one designed to keep me from living too freely.

All my life, I’ve fought tooth and nail against those who would constrain and limit me, who judged and disliked me for living too freely. Ironically, the largest fight seems to occur from within, as if those people, those voices, have set up shop somewhere inside my essential self.

Hence, when I found this book, giving 365 prompts for the journal writer, I decided I would spend a year answering the questions presented in my posts; whether telling a story, reflecting on the question, or doing some soul searching. The questions appear to be for the personal journal-keeper, but I can never seem to remind myself to write in my handwritten journal on a daily basis. The thoughts flow more freely here.

The first day’s prompt is this: What strengths have you developed over your life?

It isn’t as easy as I’d think, answering this question. I have always been smart, but not particularly ambitious or motivated to make good use of those strengths, so it’s more a positive quality than something I’ve developed. I’ve always found it easier to make friends and find lovers…but I’ve found it equally effortless to make enemies and incur hatred from those who don’t even know me, so I’m going to disqualify people skills from the list. There are other ways I could describe myself; unconventional, free-thinking, uniquely attractive, quirky, humourous, well-traveled, well-read, a talented performer, a good friend…but sadly, many of these have been transient qualities. When difficult times hit, at various points in my life, I found myself essentially abandoning many of these qualities, replacing them with inhibition. Uncertainty went from meaning possibility to signifying danger. I was no longer as young, as fun, as attractive. I stopped performing, stopped traveling, stopped making as much time for those I care about as I’d like to. I stopped seeing shows, listening to music, reading books I like. I found how easy it was to lose myself.

Yet, I am not lost. I know who I am, if I sometimes forget. I am sensitive, fragile even, but I am also strong, something I never considered myself to be. The quality life has instilled in me…often with me fighting every step of the way….is resilience. When life knocks me down in a way that disables others, I always find a way to get back up. I always find a way to begin again, to reinvent myself, to replace old dreams and circumstances and ways of life with new ones. I do not handle these defeats with grace; I cry, I scream, I hate the world and everyone in it, I sulk in a depression for awhile, listen to emo music and refuse to get out of bed, wonder what it would feel like to close my eyes and never get up…but I always do. I always find a way to survive, even in situations that seem to unbearable for me to comprehend muddling through. I’ve always come through, one way or another. It’s as if the word survivor is encoded in my DNA. Some of these experiences, I still can’t think about. They terrify me. They give me nightmares. They make me feel unbearably alone. But I always remember, “I am here, and somehow, I am supposed to be successful”.

Part of what the tarot reader told me regarding 2012 was that I needed to make peace with my past, because not doing so was keeping me from my future. She did not know I was working on a collection of short stories that are loosely based upon some of my own life history, nor that I had more of a past and less peace than most.

Perhaps the lesson I’m learning now is that you can always move on, you can always adapt, reinvent, thrive, prosper…but wherever you go, everything you’ve ever been and done, everyone you’ve ever loved and hated, it all goes with you. I’m not sure how to let go, or even if we’re meant to. I think that maybe, making peace and practicing forgiveness and non-judgment towards yourself and others is one way to begin.

Life has taught me that on the outside, I might appear a little delicate, a little high-maintenance, a little less likely to adapt to new circumstances than others. But beyond that exterior, there’s something in me that’s a fighter. Even when I’d like to simply give up, that piece of me won’t let me take the easy way out, walk away, let others win. I’m strong and resilient, words that I’d never apply to the somewhat pampered, oversensitive, overemotional, histrionic person I’ve always been. Other people have called me narcissistic, and I firmly reject that label: but sometimes, I wonder if there’s an element of truth to that off-handed characterisation often applied to people that others simply don’t understand, those who seem to live in their own little world.

Maybe there’s a tiny piece of narcissism and pride that will fight tooth and nail to help me survive virtually anything, when a majority of me simply doesn’t feel strong enough.

The next time someone calls me narcissistic, or an egotist, I will inwardly remember to thank them. Without that tiny piece of my psyche that may very well be those things, I might not be here today. It’s much harder to survive and come back from difficulty than it is to simply let things fall apart. That knowledge is, I think, the most important strength I’ve learned throughout my lifetime.