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20 September 2010 @ 11:10 pm
I absolutely *love* pictures.

I'm not sure why; it's certainly not a vanity thing, as I rarely look good in photos, and I'm not particularly talented at taking them---at least not nearly enough that it counts as a "hobby". But I love having them around, these little snapshots of my life.

In my adolescence, in high school, in college---for as long as I can remember, I've had a bulletin board or a wall in my room, filled with photos and other mementos. Even when I was traveling, living somewhere for a few weeks or a few months, photos were the first thing I'd put up to make my new surroundings feel like home.

When I moved out on my own, in "the real world", I stopped making photo collages on the walls. It seemed like adults were supposed to frame art prints and put up a few respectable portraits of loved ones, not display an illustrated version of their life on the wall. It seemed like something I secretly still loved but knew I should give up for the sake of an "adult apartment", like Glow In The Dark Stars and my purple lava lamp, and the 50 stuffed animals at the bottom of my bed.

Then, one day, a few years ago, I decided to tack a few photos that made me happy to the wall. Before I knew it, I had two walls covered with photos, postcards, ticket stubs, and random items like make no sense. When I moved into my current place, it made me so unhappy and felt so unlike home that I figured it needed all the help it could get. There's one gigantic wall, plus two smaller ones, functioning as a very large scrapbook.

The oddest thing happened--- since I decided to put the photos up, I've gotten depressed less often. I have nightmares less frequently, and even my crappy apartment feels more like home.

Some people think I'm a little odd in my choice of photos, since I don't just plaster my walls with photos of family, close friends, significant others. Among my collection are people I don't talk to very often or have lost track of, former friends I've not spoken to since they were current friends, ex-boyfriends, people in my life that have passed away. There are also places I've loved being, objects that mean little to anyone but me, and photos of me when I was so little that now, I can't remember ever being that age.

I don't have photos or memories of anyone who makes me angry, or those who make me want to either cry or punch them in the face when I think of them...but, then, there are truly only a small handful of those people in the world. I suppose in most cases, enough time or maturity has passed, and I can appreciate the memory of a special moment with someone without thinking about how terribly that relationship ended, or how sad it is that the person is no longer a part of my life. In some cases, *not* including the photo seems like the greater loss. Not everyone gets this perspective, but I tend to think that once someone or something means something important to you, that's permanent----in a way that friendships and relationships are not. People are not permanent, but the positive memories and experiences they share with you and leave behind, they always are.

I remember a friend of mine telling me that not wanting to be in photos because you're vain or self-conscious or insecure about your appearance is robbing others of their memories. Someday, when you are not here anymore, those photos of you are pieces of yourself that are left behind, visual evidence of happier times. That photo you hate because you think it makes you look fat, or old, or whatever else you don't like about yourself---when you are gone, it could end up being among another person's most treasured possessions. It could be a thing that's up on their wall, providing them comfort.

I think I like the Wall, and it makes me less sad during those times I am sad or lonely or discontent, because it's a visual reminder of "Life is this really awesome ride, and you should appreciate all of it while you're here." Even the worst, most difficult years of my life, I've still managed to find a photo or two worth hanging up and seeing every day.

I hope that when I'm old and in a retirement home somewhere, they let me have a Wall...even if I don't remember everyone on it.
 
 
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
 
 
30 August 2010 @ 09:56 pm
So, I finally decided to get everything off my chest and sent my roommate an e-mail today. It may have come off a little harsher than the person I generally am, but I don't think anything was unjustified.

Now I have to hope I don't get thrown out of the apartment. But I'm just not good at keeping my mouth shut and my feelings bottled up.
 
 
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
 
 
16 August 2010 @ 07:05 pm
Since I haven't been spending much time on here, most people don't know the saga involving my roommate. I've known him for almost 4 years now, and we were roommates once before, so when my last roommate moved in with her fiance and went to law school, it seemed natural that we'd try to be roommates again.

Over the years, it's become clear to me that this guy simply doesn't like to work. He mostly likes to stay up all night, sleep, watch TV, and spend time on the computer...which most people do like, but he doesn't balance out these interests with any sort of drive, goals, or ambition for a better life. At 40 years old, I suspect his goal is still to make enough money just to get by, and work the least amount of time possible.

Anyhow,my roommate left town abruptly 6 months ago for Texas after getting fired from his job. I was upset about this, since our apartment isn't in the best neighbourhood (since I've lived here, they've found a murder victim in the trash dumpster and the neighbour had the SWAT team come out because he was running a drugs and weapons den. When they tried to apprehend him, he opened fire, and the building was a crime scene for 12 hours.) and I was really rather afraid of living alone. Plus, at the time, I was only working part-time and not in a financial position to pay for a two bedroom apartment on my own. My roommate assured me everything would be fine, he'd get a job with his friend in TX and still pay his share of the bills each month.

While in TX, not only did he not pay for his share of rent and bills, I sent him the cash for mine, because the lease is in his name. I had no idea there was an issue until he called me on Sunday to tell me he hadn't paid the rent for two months, I was getting evicted the next day, and he lost the money I sent him playing poker. I then found out from one of his friends and from opening his bank statements that he was bouncing checks left and right, and rather than talk to me about not having the money, he simply did not pay it for two months. He then called his friend and said "Alayna's getting evicted tomorrow, so can you move all my shit out of the apartment?" before I even had an inkling there was a problem.

For 6 months, I've been struggling to pay rent and utilities for a two-bedroom apartment on my own, while he worked on commission selling time shares and partying with his friends. He made no money, basically enough to cover the small amount his friend/employer was charging for rent and bills. He owes money to everyone, and regularly receives notices that he's being sued, his bank account is being closed, or creditors are coming after him. Now he has a job in Myrtle Beach, and today, I noticed he posted how awesome it is to be on the beach looking at co-eds in bikinis.

This really bothers me, because it's like he has absolutely no concept of the massive betrayal that's inherent in the way he's treated me. When he posts things of that nature, I am furious, because it's clear he doesn't feel badly about taking advantage of friends who only ever tried to help him. He doesn't seem to think much outside of himself and what makes him happy, and though I can understand and forgive a great deal in people, that kind of selfishness is one think I simply can't overlook.

I also can't excuse the mutual friends who called me to tell me how this guy was treating me, heard my side of the story, said they felt sorry for me and admired my strength, but are still on the best of terms with this guy. I suppose you learn the difference between friends and acquaintances through adversity, but I can't understand someone choosing to be friends with someone who treats their other friends with such a blatant disrespect.

Meanwhile, he collectively owes both my boyfriend and I thousands of dollars. It just isn't right. My life is twice as hard as it needs to be because of this guy, and I don't know how not to be angry about that. I am not a perfect person, and I can forgive...but I never forget. And I don't believe people deserve second, third, or tenth chances unless they're making a huge effort to demonstrate they're working towards change and personal growth.

Why are there so many people in the world that are simply assholes, and are perfectly fine and happy being that way?
 
 
Current Mood: angryangry
 
 
28 July 2010 @ 12:56 am
I haven't written anything on here for ages, although that definitely wasn't a planned thing. It's not really that I'm keeping secrets, either, since I haven't written in my private journals for months. I don't know, maybe it's just a case of "Nothing interesting ever happens to me these days?"

Somewhere along the line over the past few months, I kind of stumbled into a new line of work, as a freelance copywriter. I started off doing really easy, crappy assignments for content sites that seem to make their living churning out thousands of passably decent articles every day, and at $3 or so for each article I'd write, it didn't exactly equate to a full time job. Now, I've sort of worked my way up the ladder, and have largely been writing for two clients who keep me extremely busy. If I were motivated enough, it's possible for me to average about $27 an hour, a pretty decent wage for an "accidental" career opportunity. For a long time, I've joked that I should get paid to write--and while sales copy, articles on plastic surgery, and web content for law firms and electricians wasn't exactly what I envisioned, I feel very fortunate that I may have stumbled upon something that I'm actually rather good at, that fits into my nocturnal, anti-corporate lifestyle, and is thriving despite the recession. The toughest part for me is actually being motivated to work the 6-8 hours each day that I'd put into a normal job. Essentially, I'm a lazy person unless I'm specifically motivated not to, and I'm better at not working than I've ever been at any job, schoolwork, or even self-directed projects.

However, spending my time during the day feeling obligated to write and be creative means that I'm largely disinterested in writing blogs or journals, or even keeping up with e-mail. By the time 7 PM rolls around, I'm happy to be away from the computer screen and constantly blinking cursor on my screen.

Speaking of which, I finally have a new laptop, and since my somewhat deadbeat roommate went MIA but left his computer behind, his desktop and room have become my office. I can't tell you how much better life is and how much more productive your days can be when your laptop isn't nearly a decade old, with a broken battery and non-functioning mouse, plus a general aversion to all things Java.

This summer, I managed to take some time out for a bit of travel, catching up with friends and family in the Northeast. Over a period of nearly 3 weeks, I visited NYC, Philly, and the Jersey Shore. I particularly was happy to spend time on the beach; simply being in a relaxed atmosphere that's full of sunshine, sand, and where people spend more time walking around in flip-flops than in their cars or waiting for the train gives me a sense of happiness and well-being I don't generally have in my everyday life, regardless of what city that life happens to be in and what I spend my time doing. I think I'd thrive as a beach-dwelling islander somewhere in the Caribbean, as long as there happened to be a city of some sort nearby.

I also took a weekend trip with my former roommate, her fiance, and their new baby--plus a couple that have been mutual friends for a really long time, and the combined total of four dogs. We drove to a cabin in North Carolina that's owned by my ex-roomie's former employer, and was actually a nice, relaxing escape for a few days. It's kind of like another world when you're not only in a tiny town in a different state, but you need to drive up a succession of one-lane windy roads to get to your lodgings. For most people, the nearest neighbour is a half-mile away, and a visit to Starbucks or McDonald's requires a half-hour drive. I don't even think most of the people who live in the area permanently have Internet access at home. The entire time we were gone, only one of the five people there had any cell service, and that was in the form of a bar that kept disappearing. Though it's fun as an isolated escape for a few days, and it intrigues me to see how other people live, I just can't imagine living such a quiet, self-contained life.

I had some bad news from home late last week, which was a bit ironic, because for the entirety of the week, I'd been upset for seemingly no reason. I'd been directing my feelings of "I know something's wrong" toward my relationship with The Guy I Am Currently Dating. This was not entirely irrational, because we'd had stressful issues in our relationship come to the forefront, and they are issues that have never been resolved and perhaps have no resolution that doesn't result in us breaking up. In addition, he'd seemed very distant and preoccupied as a result of work, these personal conflicts, and being sick. All this falling on the heels of me being away for three weeks, coming back to ATL and spending two days together before he took off for a work trip to Pensacola has made it definitely a less than positive time for us.

However, as it turns out, my intuitive feeling of "something is wrong in my life" had to do with more than my relationship difficulties. I had a phone call from my mother on Thursday night, telling me that my dad was extremely sick and on artificial respiration, since he wasn't able to breathe on his own. The doctors told her the odds were about 50/50 that he'd pull through, which was very disturbing. My father and I do not have a close relationship; in fact, there have been periods of my life in which we've had no contact whatsoever, and other periods where I swore I never wanted to see him again. However, this is the second time in the past decade he's landed in the hospital and had doctors saying he wasn't likely to survive, and that's very scary and overwhelming to me. Even though he is going to be OK, he'll still have to sleep hooked up to a ventilator at night---and it's a reminder that he isn't in good health and is getting older in a very visible and surprising way. Although I've had a lot of angst and negative feelings over *my* growing older, somehow, that doesn't translate into the idea of other people growing older.

Since I myself have been under the weather this week, most likely with the cold germ William brought home with him, I'm going to end the evening with some reading and a NyQuil, and a promise to myself to update more frequently, even if nobody reads blogs anymore. ;)
 
 
Current Mood: mellowmellow
 
 
03 March 2010 @ 02:21 am
Since the beginning of 2010, I've been filled with restlessness. Not unhappiness, per se, but a feeling that most days of my life are content enough, but mind-numbingly repetitive. I've started to feel as if life is this thing that happens to other people, that it is an adventure that's proceeding without me.

One of the unusual side effects of this is that I've changed my reading habits. I've abandoned the cheesy chick-lit books I don't admit I read and the works of literature nobody would ever believe I read (but I do.), and have become enamoured by historical fiction. In particular, I've taken an interest in reading about legendary women I identify with in some way: Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, Madame Mao. (Why do I identify with those who end up despised by everyone and minus their heads?) I've read at least five books set in China or Japan, places I've never been. It's as if I've accepted adventure and travel in my life cannot be a focus right now, so I'm vicariously living through the stories of others.

From the ages of about 17-27, I lived in kind of a completely different mindset. I wanted every day of my life to be an adventure. If it wasn't, I turned it into one, often involving some unnecessary difficulty or drama. I didn't just dream about going to other places, I read a book about them, hopped on a plane,train, or bus, and I went. I wasn't content to simply waste time talking to strangers in chat rooms when I was bored, like my friends. I started a flirtation that turned into a love affair, that caused me to move to a different city with a guy I'd spent two weeks with, in person. I met some crazy people, went places and did things that were probably not the best or wisest...but never,ever was it boring.

Some of my adventures had serious consequences, things I'll likely never be able to forget. One thing I noticed quite frequently was that for someone who had so many people in her life, all across the globe, I really lacked attachments. Everything about my life was transient or superficial. People were so often just companions or, as I called them back then, amusements; not really friends or lovers. Home was never really home, just one beige apartment or condo or townhome after another. Life wasn't so much about ambition or accomplishment, just about enjoying each day as it came. And while perhaps that is full of adventure, it's also sad when you're eating Thanksgiving dinner alone in your empty apartment for the fourth year in a row.

So, somewhere along the line, without even being consciously aware, I started to trade adventure for security. I stayed in the same place for almost 2 years with the same roommate. I got a dog. I found a steady relationship, and traded late nights out at the club and weekend martini marathons for reality TV and reading plenty of books. I started to see owning things as more of a positive and less of "I don't want to be responsible for anything that doesn't fit in my suitcase." Maybe it's simply that I started to grow up.

But now, I've become restless. I've started thinking about all the places in the world to go and all the exciting people there are to meet. Do I want my old life back? Not really. I certainly don't miss the drama and constant chaos that characterised my life back then. I'd gladly trade all the casual hook-ups and three-month love affairs for someone who genuinely knows and understands me, and loves me anyway. Sometimes, I even feel kind of proud of myself for working at my desk all day and watching TV at night and not drinking during the week. I feel somehow normal, as if I drank the Kool-Aid and it wasn't as bad as I thought.

But other times, well, I just want some adventure back in my life. I want to live in a city that's loud and noisy and makes me interact with all sorts of people on a daily basis. I want to stay out until 6 AM, and crash parties of people I've never met, and gamble a month's rent on a poker game. I want to meet a stranger I'll never see again, but always remember, in a country I've never been to. I want to do something or be something or create something for which I'll be noticed and remembered. I want to not be afraid of failing or looking stupid or that something bad might happen to me, which is a fear I only became aware of after a series of failures, humiliations, and bad things happened. Ever since then, I've not been able to go back.

I still want more stories to add to my autobiography. I still want to find that perfect way to express my intelligence and creativity and endearingly unique personality.

When I was an adolescent working in shows and commercials, I'd often work with aging models, dancers, and actresses who'd become teachers and directors and coaches. They were full of stories about their wild days, the people they'd worked with, the battle scars they'd acquired along the way. It didn't occur to me that there was anything odd about a world where 30 was considered retirement age, the point at which nobody wanted or noticed you.

Now, I am one of those women. Somehow, those ideas put in my head via the performance world are very different from everyone else's. People laugh and look at me strangely when I tell them I'm now old, and feel worried that I've passed all my best days. It isn't only the fear that I'm now past the prime of my life, it's also that I'm sort of tired and relieved to be old and boring. I've lived more in the past decade than some people do in 5 decades. I don't know how to explain that for me, it's like I'm now starting my second life. I feel this sort of angst because I know it's time to discover and define me all over again, only this time with more substance and less insanity.

I'm struggling with the process and the idea of growing up, of wanting permanent things, love and stability and accomplishment....and balancing that with the part of me that not only wants to party like a rock star, but believes I am one.

I'm just a rock star who needs a much better apartment and unlimited frequent flier miles. ;P
 
 
Current Mood: awake
 
 
 
01 March 2010 @ 04:27 am
Some many,many years ago, when I first started writing poetry, I wrote a short poem which then carried into a series of short poems. It was called "Intrigue", and while reading a book this evening, I somehow started thinking about that particular state of being. More than any other, it seems to be an emotional response that has an effect upon me.

Though I've had my share of romantic liaisons throughout the years, most of the poems are not about past romances. They're largely vignettes on something far more exciting to me than love or sex or romance; they're about affairs of the mind. Intellectual attractions. Stories about those people who excite you through simply being interesting, or enigmatic, or difficult, or any number of things most people you meet on a daily basis are not. Stories about the things you'd do if there were no limitations, no taboos. For the most part, and for most of us, they are infatuations that are never pursued...or those that are, and then lose their sparkle when seen in the harsh, un-idealistic light of reality.

I've always been someone who is very much affected by this phenomenon; perhaps it's why a medium like the internet has been uncharacteristically attractive to me (a largely extraverted personality who loses interest in things quickly.) and has led me to meet and befriend numerous people I'd never have crossed paths with otherwise.

It's also likely what fuels some of my unwise decisions. I've always been fascinated by things I'm not supposed to be attracted to, things with a mysterious or dangerous or otherwise dark side. It could be as simple as the idea of playing with fire is appealing to me, and it makes people and things I'd not otherwise notice objects of my fascination. It's led me to relationships with people unavailable or attached or generally negative influences. It's led me to lose sleep over people I've never met or to read the same book 1800 times or to put all my energy into ideas that aren't ever going to work out. It's led me to countless bad ideas on the basis of "I just wanted to see what it was like". I think many of my problems in life have simply come from the fact that I get some sort of special thrill out of pushing the envelope.

As I've gotten older, and hopefully wiser, and learned that many of the things I'm attracted to keep me from the emotional stability and loving relationships I seek, I've also learned it's probably OK that I am this way. Getting myself involved in situations that result from actions are not, and in my experience, they are far less exciting to me than the intellectual attraction. I think it's largely normal to be somewhat fascinated by other people and ideas, even those that might be bad for you were they part of your everyday world.

I always suspected that balancing these aspects of my personality with the idea of a stable, monogamous relationship was a recipe for disaster. (Unfortunately, there are more than a few past relationships that attest to that being the case.) But, it turns out, it isn't. I'm actually not the sort of person who is terribly prone to being attracted to or lusting after another person. I think the only reason I've had trouble with monogamy in my younger years is that I become genuinely psyched by making connections with other people. I always assumed this had to lead to a physical or romantic relationship, yet found myself mostly disappointed when it did. It's always caused me confusion and angst when the subject of my interest happened to be someone of the same sex, or someone I'd never be physically attracted to.

In the end, I think I am just intrigued by intrigue. Fortunately for me, the older I get, the more rare it is for me to meet someone who makes me think about them long after I've met them. And it has been a long time since I've found a new hobby I want to spend 80 hours a week doing and neglecting all other aspects of my life.

The author of the book I read, "Red Azalea", seems to grapple with this problem throughout her life. These impulses lead her to a fanatical devotion to Communism, a lesbian affair, the desire to be a movie star, and a twisted attraction to a troubled and powerful older man. Throughout the course of reading this autobiography, I thought of my "Intrigue" poems, and the many phases and relationships and interests that have marked the different chapters of my life.

I think that when you are the sort of person who is wired to feel and experience everything as powerfully as possible, you live your life a little differently, or at least look at it through a different lens.

I almost would like to be able to see what the next 10 years will look like, and what things might still evoke passion and inspiration. For the past few years, my intrigues have been less about people and more about ideas, creation, plans for the future.

Maybe I should write a poem for Meetup. *laughs*
 
 
Current Mood: tiredtired
 
 
02 February 2010 @ 05:24 pm
As many of you know, I'm a pretty big fan of HBO's hit show "Big Love". For those who've never seen it, it's about a polygamist family living in modern day Salt Lake City. The characters are all kind of caught between two worlds, and live in a permanent state of non-acceptance; they've been isolated from their family who still lives on the compound because of their more modern ways, and shunned by the Salt Lake City Mormon church--which no longer condones polygamy. They're also forced to hide their non-traditional family from neighbours and co-workers, both out of fear of being outed and losing their social status, and out of fear of being arrested.

The newest season of the show features the lead character deciding his life's calling is to become a Senator, despite the fact that he has these many deep, dark secrets and is living a double life that is likely to anger and upset many when exposed. He's both arrogant and idealistic, and thinks his plan to get himself elected as a conservative family man and then reveal the truth about his family is a good way to expose the prejudice and bigotry against them for what it is.

It got me thinking about our society, and how we're all just addicted to "scandal", which is really a polite way of saying we all love to judge other people. The whole world tunes into 20/20 and Dateline to watch the latest disgraced politician or fallen athlete try vainly to apologise and redeem himself. Shows like Entertainment Tonight and TMZ are huge; we all want to hear the sordid details of the lives of people who are clearly crazier than ourselves. Reality TV, "talk" shows, the 2 million incarnations of Judge Judy-type dramas; our entertainment so often revolves around the judgments we pass on other people.

What would life be like if we just lived in a world where dirty little secrets weren't so dirty? What if politicians and athletes and other public figures were not only encouraged, but embraced, by not the perception of living a "dirty little secret"-free life (which, let's face it, is an elaborate lie for almost all of us) but by their straightforwardness and honesty? What if nobody really cared what drugs Mrs. Smith had in her secret stash, or that Mr. Jones cheated on his wife, or that the head of the PTA had a criminal record? What if nobody was shocked, or entertained, or even interested in learning that other people, even famous, wealthy, accomplished people, had skeletons in their closets fairly similar to the ones most of us have?

Sure, everyone has different secrets, but almost all of us have them. Wouldn't it be a different kind of world if we were not so routinely fascinated by the secrets of others, by judging a person based upon one action or set of choices in his life? (really? Does Tiger Woods suddenly suck at golf because he likes to sleep with white girls he's not married to? If not, why do we care? His job is to be good at golf.) What if we all were forced to become more open about ourselves, and consequently, more accepting of others?

Well, there'd be a lot less TV, and people who made their livings from merely being as scandalous as possible, or "asking the tough questions" to try to unearth scandal from other people's lives...perhaps destroying them in the process, but certainly gaining a lot of media attention...would have to find new jobs. People would get their news from other sources besides the National Enquirer and Perez Hilton, and political pundits would actually have to use their power of snarkiness to deal with the issues. We'd all have to save our shock and outrage and "Oh, my God, that person is such a bad person" for things that might really deserve it. Just turn on the 5 o'clock news and see how many rapes, murders, kidnappings, and the like are going on in your neighborhood, and see if you still maintain that John Edwards is the worst guy on the face of the planet. Trust me, he's not.

On top of that, we might start being real about ourselves, and seeing that most of the secrets we keep aren't worth all the effort we go to in order to keep them. Why? To avoid public shame, or personal humiliation, or to avoid judgment by a group of people who almost all have secrets as shocking as yours? We might decide it's not worth putting someone down or ostracizing them because we've learned they like to have a drink at 3 PM, have a shoplifting habit, cheat on their spouse, dress in trashy lingerie, grow pot in their closet, or have a secret webcam site on the Internet.

I personally don't care if Bill Clinton inhaled, if Hillary is a lesbian, if Tiger can't keep it in his pants, if half of baseball's Hall Of Fame was on steroids, if my local politician likes to pick up strangers in airport bathrooms or S & M clubs, if Angelina is a crazy homewrecker, if Britney is bipolar, or if half of the contestants on my favourite reality show have rap sheets and naked photos out there. I don't care because I don't know these people, and also because I think there are better ways to make judgments on others than looking at how much "scandal" lurks in their lives. I'm not saying I'm perfectly open-minded, that I never judge, but in the grand scheme of things...who really gives a crap?

The world just might be a better place if we all realised how much energy we put into condemning other people, and how that could be re-directed and used positively.

I'd vote for a guy with three wives. I wouldn't vote for the guy who was told to be so ashamed of his three wives that he had to put so much time and energy into hiding and denying some of the most important and meaningful aspects of his life. But, that's on our society. Society tells us it's OK to tolerate just about anything shocking or taboo or unconventional, as long as it's kept sufficiently hidden. Our society encourages us all to value the outward appearance kept up by the second guy, and not the candour of the first...and when the second guy's secrets are unearthed, he's often crucified by the media, and by the public.

When did our priorities get so amazingly screwed up?
 
 
01 February 2010 @ 03:34 am
Nope, this isn't a rant about some girl I can't stand, and there's no drama here. It's just a book review. :)

It's taken me three weeks--two weeks longer than expected--but I finally managed to finish reading a book that's been on my to-read list for literally years, Elizabeth Wurtzel's feminist manifesto "Bitch".

For those of you who aren't familiar, Elizabeth Wurtzel is an author I quite like. Despite the fact that she's been a prolific writer, most notably for the New York Times, she's most well-known for her autobiographical "Prozac Nation", which kind of reached cult-status amongst disenchanted and disenfranchised Gen X-ers in the 1990's (it was made into a movie starring the permanently suicidal-looking Christina Ricci).

"Prozac Nation" is really quite a good book, though for every good review it got, it received three negative ones asking why a 30-year-old nobody had ever heard of would take it upon herself to write an autobiography, much less one that is literally a catalogue of how hard it was to be depressed before Prozac came around, much less before we lived in an era when every third person was on it. This, of course, was before everyone plugged in and started a blog and got themselves on reality TV, and we all came to think of ourselves as the most interesting people in the world. Back then, Wurtzel's presumption that anyone cared was a big deal. But, of course, tons of people did care.

I remember loving "Prozac Nation" at 20; it was easy for me to identify with her, even though I wasn't manic depressive, or on Prozac. It made me feel free to accept all the other broken, in-need-of-therapy aspects of myself, as if everyone was fucked-up and this was status quo in the world. A decade later, I can see the self-indulgence; while Wurtzel had a particularly difficult path to recovery, much of it was of her own design, a creative person carrying a big sign that said "Pay attention to me!". I can also see the generation gap a bit more reading the more intellectually-minded "Bitch"; Wurtzel is 12 years older than I am, and it turns out that Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers see things a little differently.

I knew going into it that "Bitch" was going to be...well, a bitch, to tackle. Wurtzel admits she'd written the book between alternating fits of mania and severe depression, and the book reads this way. Some chapters are brilliantly insightful and full of clarity, but seem to just go on and on and on. (I'd recommend reading the book, but just skip the 60 pages on Delilah as relates to feminism. I think it took me 4 days to get through that section.) Others are interesting, but interspersed with the author's own views---the chapter on tragically creative and iconic women is a great read, if it weren't almost pro-suicide.

The best part of the book is the chapter that crucifies Hillary Clinton as feminist model. Wurtzel does a good job, making her case that a woman leaving behind an ambition-filled path in the Northeast to live in Arkansas with a man, supporting his career, having children, and standing by his indiscretions is not the path most would equate with "independent career woman". However, after making her case, she mentions that Hillary might have been something in her own right; Supreme Court justice, or attorney general, or maybe even with the state department---but, alas, that opportunity had passed Ms. Clinton by.

I'm hoping Hillary has a copy of this book in her bookcase in the Secretary Of State's office.

All that aside, much of the book really is very thought-provoking,if controversial. The very girl-power-and-all-that Wurtzel defends the idea that abused women don't leave because they're attracted and enamoured by the abuse cycle, that most people romanticise rape fantasies and domestic violence, that Elizabeth Dole is more feminist-oriented than Hillary Clinton, and that Courtney Love is smart. Even more surprising is how persuasive some of her bizarre perspectives are. This is a book that is less in defense of women than in explanation of.

I'm glad I read "Bitch", and I'm planning to pass it on to the people I know who'd really enjoy the intellectual stimulation and fodder for argument it provides. It also taught me that depressed people may be more creatively inclined, but they also need more editors. This is a 300 page book that should have been a 60-page collection of essays, and the critics may have taken Elizabeth Wurtzel a bit more seriously.

I'm way behind on my 100-book-a-year reading goal, and as a result, I have 6 books stacked up and waiting in the "to-read" pile. I blame this book. Oh, and Blockbuster.
 
 
Current Mood: awake
 
 
24 January 2010 @ 07:38 pm
Last week ended up being a decidedly lost week. I'm not sure why, but I was hit pretty hard by a serious case of the blues; you know, the kind where it seems everything is wrong and your life completely sucks, and you have no energy to do anything, and wish you could just curl up in bed until the world is a nicer place to be?

Those weeks are not fun, and they make me more sympathetic to my many,many friends who suffer with clinical depression. Fortunately for me, I've always been the resilient sort of bad-mood person; the negative energy sticks around for a day or two, sometimes just even a few hours. I cry, I throw things, I curl up in the bed and sleep...but the source of the gloom usually cures itself, or the side effects seem much more manageable, and I'm back to my usual self.

But this past week, no matter what I did, nothing could cheer me up. It was oddly unexpected, because ever since leaving for the Northeast over December holidays, I'd been filled with energy and in a generally positive mood. January inspired a sort of uber-productiveness that left me feeling better about myself and my life; you know, that I was actually *doing* something with my time and talents other than watching life go by in a haze of boredom. I was following through on my resolutions for the new year; to eat better, to spend time doing creative things, to try to find a source of income that is stable but doesn't drive me insane. All in all, I was feeling better about life and working towards improvement of it, and then, a giant rain cloud fell on me.

All of the things that went wrong were relatively minor; my mouse broke, leaving me computer-less for two days, my dog spilled a cup of fruit punch everywhere, including on my laptop,my new chair, and new comforter. All my attempts at freelance writing were summarily rejected, without a bit of feedback. I wasn't sleeping well, and going back to having nightmares and chasing dreams. The hard-to-book venue at which I'd planned my weekend event was giving me grief. The Guy I Am Currently Dating was not so interested in chatting about my thoughts and feelings because he seemed rather down and frustrated about personality conflicts in his Meetup group that seemed to derail all of his positive efforts and the group's accomplishments. None of these things seem large enough to set off an entire week of crying at a moment's notice and sleeping 10 hours a night and generally feeling exhausted by life, but somehow, they were.

Then, on Thursday, I realised I physically didn't feel well...and by the end of my event on Friday night, I decided to go home early because I was feeling so out of sorts. By Saturday, at a friend's wedding reception, both I and The Guy I Am Currently Dating were feeling like crap, and how we managed to make it through the day, I have no idea. Turns out, I was sad and exhausted last week not because life was suddenly so awful, but because I was fighting some evil germ, and didn't have any energy left over for inconvenient things like feelings, and stuff randomly breaking/going wrong.

Today, after a full 11 hours of sleep (I usually sleep about 6 hours a night, so all this sleep is crazy to me!), I felt a little better, and was able to be cheerful and productive.

Really? All this angst and sadness for an entire week because I was catching a COLD? It's actually kind of funny, in retrospect, but it certainly wasn't at the time. Not to mention, I feel way behind on EVERYTHING....for someone who feels like they don't actually do anything because they don't actually make decent money at most of the things they do, I actually do quite a bit. Between all my freelancing projects, I work 40-50 hours a week, which is a full-time job for most people. (Sadly, I think I'd make more money and work less hours waiting tables or mixing drinks. Sigh.). I run a pretty large and active Meetup, and help out with a few others. I play trivia once, sometimes twice a week. I have a dog, a wonderful boyfriend, and an extended network of friends...all of which I love, but require time and energy to keep up with. I have plenty of hobbies and interests. Turns out, when I give it some thought, I do a number of things. It's just that they don't necessarily seem significant because they are not financially rewarding...but in other respects, all of the various things I spend my time on are very significant to me, and I think I'd be sad to not have the time or energy available to devote to them.

Maybe I'm too lazy or self-centred for capitalism, or perhaps I'm just a product of my slacker generation... but I wish there were a way I could do all the things I love, keep up with all those important to me, and still feel I was doing something rewarding/productive on the career front. I don't want to have to give up things that matter to me or make me feel more fulfilled as a person in order to not have to be concerned with money, but, the lack of money has more detrimental effects on the quality of life than the lack of personal fulfillment.

How can you do what you love, be financially secure, and still have time for friends, family, and relationships? Does anyone else out there have it figured out, or are most people just as lost and unfulfilled in one respect or another as I am?
 
 
Current Mood: artistic
 
 
05 January 2010 @ 02:05 pm
Well, my blog has certainly been missing in action for a little while!! Like many of you, I spent the holidays travelling around to see family and friends, so internet time ended up being fairly limited. After two weeks of vacation, gaining five pounds from cookies, candy, and Starbucks, and hearing "There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays" 75,000 times, I am back in Atlanta and ready to start the new year.

The New Year, and in this case, the new decade, always means setting new goals. Every year, I make some resolutions, like just about everyone in America, only to find the willpower to work on them doesn't last nearly as long as I need it to in order to actually accomplish anything. Nevertheless, here are the things I'd like to work on...and thinking about them, it surprised me that there are only a few. Perhaps that means I'm much happier in aspects of my life than I ever really think I am. Despite the obstacles in my life I sometimes see as huge and unconquerable, I realise that I really am a lucky person who has things to be thankful for. I have a great network of friends to lean on, to do things with, and to be a part of my world... and family that's supportive (from a distance) of most things I might want to do in my life. I've been dating a great guy for a year and a half, and while I'm not always sure where that relationship is heading, it's a hugely important part of feeling happy and secure in my life. I have a roommate who is a friend, even if we don't always see eye to eye, and genuinely cares about me...and a dog who is always there with hugs and love and company. I have a roof over my head, even if it isn't where I ideally want to call home, and interesting things to do, most of the time. I have interests and talents and hobbies, even if I don't always have the time and energy for them. There are a lot of great things in my life. Of course, there are also some not-so-great ones, so here's what I'd like to fix.:

1)Lose weight: Like many,many Americans, I'm not always happy what I see when I look in the mirror. There's a reason this is the top New Year's resolution in the U.S., almost every year: Something that seems pretty simple (exercise, control stress, and don't eat crap.) is in reality, extremely difficult. It all comes down to self-discipline (well, for most of us, anyway), whether you want to lose 5 pounds or 50. Part of the reason this is such an issue for me is not just vanity; I know that while I'm not as skinny as I'd like to be, I'm not a cow, either...but the fact that I don't seem to have the self-discipline to conquer this particular goal. Unlike other things in my life, which may be influenced by outside forces, this is one thing I can't blame on anyone but me. (though I do blame Moe's, Chick-Fil-A, and Reese's a little bit.) I really like junk food, I hate to exercise, and come from a gene pool that's full of generations of women who are short and round. I don't want to be short and round. But I also don't want to have to give up cheesy bread. It's a huge dilemma.

2)Take control of my financial situation: Yes, I know, this is another very popular one. For me, it might have a number of different sub-categories: "Work extra-hard to pay the bills and clear up debt", "Find a job that might lead to an actual career", "Figure out what I want to be when I grow up", "Find a way to turn my talents into something that makes money"...but thinking about all those different things leaves me feeling kind of defeated and as if it's all so impossible. So for now, I'm simply going to focus on the short term goals; paying the bills, saving money to move into a new place, etc. I'm fortunate in that, unlike many of my friends, I'm not burdened with much debt. Unfortunately, I'm also not burdened with a steady income source, and I'm no closer to figuring out what I might actually enjoy doing in the world, other than acting, blogging, throwing parties, reading novels, watching reality TV, and playing trivia...none of which pay terribly well!

3)Bring more art and culture into my life: One of the things I miss about my bohemian artist days is that nothing seemed more important than creative things and creative people. Life was filled with shows and rehearsals, meeting interesting artists, going to museums and perfomances and indie films, seeing unsigned bands in basement bars. Between living in Atlanta, where making money and spending money and eating out at the newest restaurants and dancing at the hot new clubs are the favourite past-times of most, and trying to become more stable and focused on practical things, I haven't made that much time for the things I really love. I really love art, music, performance, books, in many different forms, both creating and appreciating what others do. I feel sad that I've made less of a place for it in my life than I should.

4)Focus on me: For most of my life, I've had a tendency to focus on other people, on my friendships and relationships, on pleasing others, on being liked. And, it's always consequently been very hard for me to accept when I often displease others, and find out I am NOT liked, often just on the basis of being authentically me. I'm the girl who's lost jobs because the upsetting fight with her boyfriend was more important than showing up to work, and stayed in bed for a week when the entire world hated her. I think it's time to work on shifting that focus and that energy to me, to improving my life. Relationships and family and friendships and one's social circle are important, and should be focused on...but not to the exclusion of what you want, what makes you happy. It may be selfish, but I'm going to spend more time with me this year.

5)Take time to appreciate the small things: I admittedly fail miserably at this, and when I was home for the holidays, spending time with my mother taught me I come by it naturally. 10 small, positive things that happened during my day can easily be overshadowed by one negative things. 10 nice things that others said or did can be forgotten in the face of one harsh criticism or rude action. It's easy for me to think things are only enjoyable if they're big, loud, fancy, or on a grandiose scale. I'm not sure why I'm wired this way, but I've always been. And yet, various things in my life have taught me that when everything is taken away, it's the small things that matter most, that you miss the most. This year, I'm going to remind myself that small pleasures and enjoyable moments in life are worth being happy about, even if there might be a big problem or stress-causing thing looming in the background.

Oh, and I'm also going to do the 100-book challenge, which I do every year...and most years, I complete. I currently have a stack of 9 books to be read, a mixture of fiction, intellectually challenging non-fiction, and those trashy chick lit books I love even if I suspect I lose IQ points every time I read them. I'm going to make an effort to check some of the un-read classics off of the "Best Books Of All-Time" list, which I'll post in a later post.

So, what about you? What are your New Year's resolutions, or goals for 2010?
 
 
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful