Another hotel room post. Thank goodness for the WordPress app because my laptop and desktop refuse to go online. So I am reduced to thumb typing and phone editing. Like a barbarian. Good thing my vision is perfect for 8 inches in front of my face, beyond that lies blindness.
Our house went up for sale. I was thumbing through the pictures, and remembering how much I loved that old house. I felt the same way while packing and cleaning. The hardwood floors we found under ancient linoleum. The laminate we put down in the big back room with the wood stove. It was so pretty. A happy place. Our happy place. And the only home my Border Collie ever knew.
Border Collies were not meant for hotel rooms, nor not being able to go out.
I spent so long avoiding the outside of my house, where the male neighbor, “Harry the Homunculus,” would sit and wait for me to come out to holler at me, comment on my life, and just stare all day. I have no idea why he was home all the time. But he sure let me know he was. Running motors at all hours, unattended, some diesel engines, until they ran out of fuel. But the result was, my gardens went untended and to seed. My animals weren’t happy. I didn’t want to power-wash. He was always looking. And I felt like the trash he dumped in our face. Like a middle finger, or a bathroom-wall dick scribble.
Though, of all females, my female neighbor earned every gendered epithet you can imagine, I called her “Becky.” As in BBQ Becky, Karen’s Dark Side disciple like The Emperor and Vader (but as totally basic [riches]). She was an emotionally manipulative, pathological liar, with two brain cells to rub together (two more than Harry). There was no lowness to which she would not sink, to her knees.
These people who tore up a 208 foot hogwire and cement sunk post fence AND the side picket fencing BECAUSE they were told to keep their dog out of our yard. Who admitted, when I requested an inspection from the Department of Agriculture, that, yeah they did mix and boom spray RoundUp Pro over a water course and onto our yard. The police did nothing. Zero. And I was always unsure how to react because when we put up some netting as a temporary fence for our animals, he made a pile of a pulled up tree, wire, posts, an old oil tank, and the roof of an outhouse in front of our house. I filmed it, and as he got off his forklift, dude said “Stop testing me, lady.”💛🤍💜🖤
His reactions were always exponentially more insane than I could imagine. And all the police would say is keep a record, take pictures, and save your security cam video. Well, yeah, but what is the end game here?
No trafedy that unspeakable happened to me, but in the next part, I will tell you how much man power the regional police had, and how it was (mis)used against me, but not to protect that mother and her children.
Sorry these are so dark, folks. I promise, it gets something-er.
Joe Biden said they came “in rage” on January 6, 2020. And as Congress investigates the insanity of 1/6 — and the cases of participants wend through the courts — I sit in a hotel room hours away from my house.
I am a casualty of America’s “Culture Wars.”
I was run out of my home in a semi-rural town in a battleground state by my own neighbors. My partner is a bona fide former US Marine Corps combat engineer (#1371) who served in Iraq. And this veteran was forced to find a new job, put the house up for sale, and on New Year’s Eve we drove out of that town. I could not bear to wake up one day of the New Year in what I had called “home” for five plus years.
I never understood the mentality of the Jan. 6th rioter. But when it came down to an apology and literally mending a fence, we went from neighborly to the local police breaking in our door, cuffing my partner and myself, and my being taken for involuntary psychiatric commitment with invalid paperwork as a favor for my neighbors. I stared into the rabid face of America’s “Culture Wars” then. I have never seen such ugly, proud, unrepentant hate. Not even during my worst moments of violent abuse or sexual attack.
“Culture Wars” sounds like a reality TV show. The “Culture Wars” and “incivility” in the United States runs deeper and darker. What the folks who drove us from our home — and what the rioters of Jan. 6 reject — is any culture, or notion of civilization or society. They believe freedom is free: free from boundaries or basic rules, free from repercussions, free to give in to the darkest impulses, to treat other human beings as less than a dog. Not simply rejecting “we” for “I,” but an “I” that is the “I want! Mine! Gimme!” of a child’s tantrum.
It is Hobbes’ “Nasty, brutish, lonely, and short.” It’s Colonel Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. Lord of the Flies. Saturn eating his own children. It is the sin of Caine. A mass escape of the collective Shadow or Id. It is what war is and does. It is a rejection of the biological need of our species to work and live with others. An inability to accept what is. An alienation from Love and Charity. It is Hell. I saw it on television that day one year ago, and I saw it unfold in my life. Good God, “The horror!”
Screenwriters call the moment the status quo in a narrative is first challenged the inciting incident. If my life were Star Wars (please!), America’s Culture Wars would be the Galactic Civil War between the the Rebels and the Empire, while the moment that regular person Luke sees R2D2’s message is what challenges him to make the choice that starts the drama and brings him into the larger conflict.
I never wanted to be a culture warrior. I have my causes, but I don’t care how you vote (or don’t), or worship (or don’t). I was raised to not talk God or Politics in mixed company. What matters to me is politeness, kindness, and tolerance.
Alas, unlike reluctant Luke, I did not buy a used droid that was on a secret mission. I got three ducks. I was outside clearing weeds with the help of my chicken lady crew, looked at the weeds starting to choke the stream, and thought “it would be cool to have some kinda water chicken to help clear…oh, right doofus, ducks.” Water chickens. Nice one Jess.
I found a hearty breed crossed with Mallards that were good egg layers. I named them Mary, Lizzie, and Sir Frank the Drake. I started them first swimming in the kitchen sink, then the bathtub, to finally joining the free ranging chicken ladies outside. They swam in their kiddie pool, and kept the stream clear. Then one of the neighbors’ Rottweilers killed Mary in the stream.
I guess I wanted more than a “so sorry lol” text. At least a show of “Oh my God, I am so sorry! We’ll make sure we fix that fence when we get back from vacation.” I mean, I would do that simply to prevent someone from citing my dog. Offer vet money, something. Instead, it progressed to “you don’t know what this family is going through!” Well, yep, I am your neighbor, you are going on vacation. To “you wanna war, you gotta war!” Err, no. I was hoping you’d recognize that a boundary had been crossed, and try to make it right somehow. Even a fakey somehow. Like that is what people do when their dog kills another person’s animal, right?
So I cited the dog. Not to hurt the animal, but so they would keep it off our lawn. Well, a few days later I was out on the front porch when I heard a “thwump….thwack” by the side entrance. Someone had shot an arrow into our side entrance from the wooded hill behind us. I called the police the next day. The officer said “Well, it’s only a target arrow.” Only a whah? I don’t care if it was a BB gun. Other animals and people live here, for [cries shakes]! That is reckless endangerment.
I have lived in cities, suburbs, in Central America, in different states, visited Europe and the UK, and I grew up on a farm. But never once has anyone shot at my home or apartment. And in no place was 1) killing someone’s animal or 2) having your home shot at just an “Oh well . . .” situation. People’s standards are fairly similar across the world. What world was I living in?
That was how I felt watching the Electoral Vote Count on January 6th of last year. Like a dutiful citizen who votes and has stake in our society, I watched the mainly ceremonial count. First, some grand standing by Josh Hawley, and then expected the mumbling of some 18th Century-style words holy to our democratic republic and other rituals from Vice-president Pence and other officiants.
Then noises and weird reports from outside the Capitol. Switch to outside as protesters turned violent. Began scaling walls, fighting police, until the entire side of the building was crawling with a mass of humanity. I was horrified. What country is this? One of those “sh-t hole” ones The Former Guy refered to? This CANNOT BE THE UNITED STATES! This is Libya, or a former Soviet republic. But no. That was our beautiful Capitol building that Lincoln made a point of completing during the Civil War.
Later I saw the clashes with police. There was at least one dead officer and a dead civilian among the casualties of this rabid mob. These human beings descended into the worst state of humanity. There was smashing of faces and glass, crazed chases, offices ransacked, and human feces spread on the floors and walls. Like the island in Pinocchio that turned boys into asses meets Bruegel meets Dante. Filled with Prideful hate, let loose from all civilized restraints, the faces were grotesque mockeries of a human face.
Soon, I got to see that face close up. In neighbors, in corrupt police, in the lazy disinterest of detectives, and the cruelty built into the mental health system run by former prison personnel of York County, PA.
For all my beautiful friends, known and unknown to me:
Writing at the darkest time of year, when we string lights and let candles flicker as we await the rebirth of the Sun, I want you to remember that it truly is a wonderful, glorious, miraculous life.
And while other holiday films may delight us with nostalgia, or portraits of crazy families still managing to enjoy their particular life, I love It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1947).
A dark film, for a dark season, that eventually turns its face again to the light. It’s a Wonderful Life presents us with a portrait of a family man who sees his life as a failure, is deeply in debt, and attempts suicide on Christmas Eve. But it’s not that George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) actually wants to die. He specifically wishes to have never been born. And his wish is granted.
Having never been born, George Bailey is free to see how life would have proceeded without him. The thousands of little links in the chain of his existence are broken. He was not alive to save his brother’s life, to keep a grieving pharmacist from accidentally poisoning someone, to marry his wife, to fix his dream home as well as build the dream homes of the people of his hometown of Bedford Falls.
Beyond seeing how connected and important his life was to so many, he also realizes that he has no memories, no experience of life, no friends, no family, no connections, no love. And this is when he chooses to live again.
I want you to think about what George Bailey knows when he makes his decision to return to his life. Nothing has changed. There are Zuzu’s petals in his pocket, he is still broken by debt, and yet he chose to have back his experiences, his connections, his friends, family and love.
And though the town pulls together to help erase his debt that night, George did not know that would happen when he chose life. He wanted to kiss his wife and children, run through the streets shouting “Merry Christmas” to all, even old man Potter.
None of us know our future. Whether trouble, pain, or loss will hit us on any particular day, but we go on anyway because the alternative is nothingness.
Imagine never experiencing life. Not simply seeing the stars, or falling in love, or sunsets after a fine day, but never knowing loss, the pain of unrequited love. Life is all of these things, the painful, the glorious, the unjust, the small triumphs, the love and loss. And living with the constant uncertainty of it all.
And yet we choose this everyday. In a dark, cold, and lonely Universe, somehow you were born. A naked ape made from the elements of the Earth, kin to all you see in a very real way. The only difference is that, having life, you get to reflect on the immense miracle of it all. And it is never too late to choose to live in love and awe.
This season, count your riches in the amount of love you give, the joy you bring, and be open to this glorious, uncertain, and wonderful life. May peace and love fill all of your days, and may you safely rest in the arms of love, no matter what this life brings.
Holy hand grenade, I’ve been going through a time. Let’s review. A neighbor dog killed one of our ducks in our yard, never tried to make it right, and someone is shooting arrows at my side porch.
Along with those slings and arrows, I’ve had: two funerals, two stomach viruses, looking for a new SS lawyer, phone calls and paperwork, and that most Karen of 90s holdouts, faxes!
Speaking of 90s holdouts, I found a copy of the CD Bona Drag, by Morrissey. The original with the red shirt on the blue background. I had that on tape! It was five bucks at a music store. Snapped it up.
When I finally sat down to listen, I realized that every single one of the songs was a hit that would show up as the first song on a Pandora playlist. But they were all together! These iconic songs were all ordered into one entire unfolding experience. A two year journey of delicious pop, with 60s girl band throwbacks, the slyest and snarkiest of lyrics, and a smooth yet odd and expressive voice. I had never fully appreciated those songs until I heard them set in that order.
That’s what the rest of my life has been in want of: order. I’m world-renowned for my intense dislike of chaos (and people going barefoot). I needed to get my life in some form of order, and I needed to let nature dictate that order. I needed to listen to each piece of it all in its own time, in order.
I love not worrying. Worry gives me panic attacks and agita. But when needs must, at least let me take it one at a time.
The first part to call was physical. Take a shower. Clean clothes. Drink water. Eat! Your brain is hardwired to react to scarcity, or any physical discomfort. You ever get depressed when you’re sick? And you ever tried eating? It’s like magic! Your body and brain work. I also highly recommend sleep. Melatonin helps.
This can all be truly hard when you are worried or anxious or depressed. But they’re some of the first parts of myself I try to reclaim from disrepair after a shock, sickness, or emergency.
I hate that I’ve become this person, but I gotta move my body! Slowly start walking about, swing my arms, dance a little, do some gentle yoga. My body becomes a Gordian knot after a few sedentary days. Only I slowly work it out, unlike other, “greater,” Greeks. My body is screaming, “move that arse.”
While we all are forced to make quick calls, literal and figurative, most of the time, those calls can wait a day or so for us to recover. And even for us to clean our normal work and life space. I’m a big fan of dedicated spaces that are ready for whatever.
And of course: can’t ignore the call to self-soothe. I try being very kind to myself. Let myself have permission to not be top functioning. I struggle with this. I feel I should do every dreaded task at once, when I could probably put aside time every day to work on the pieces. But if I don’t stop to just do a thing that soothes my mind and body, I can’t function at all.
The sooner I get myself on my regularly scheduled program, the better. But it does take time to come back from a major life whalloping. But at least there is plenty of daylight to get things done. Plenty of long summer days to tend to myself and life.
Obviously, things are still rough going. But I’m taking it in stages. Pasito a pasito. Baby steps. Making time for fun/good for me stuff. Even stopping at that music store for no reason was a win. I also got “Viva Hate” by, Morrissey. So I’ll sit down for a proper listen in good time, and in order.
– JL ✌🏼💚💐🖖🏼
PS – Fax machines are an arcane, invasive species of communication. There is no limit on killing them.
As I recover from my abuse and trauma, I’ve spent a lot of time on forums for folks who have experienced abuse or have a Narcissist in their life. Reading the questions and experiences of these folks has been eye-opening and educational.
Did you know there are Covert Narcissists? Covert Malignant Narcissists? That Narcissistic Abusers and Borderline Personality Disorders are different? I didn’t. But now that I have explored the subject, I’d like to answer the five most common questions regarding why Narcissists, BPDs, and abusers abuse, and what to do about it.
*Note: these are similar to questions I have seen, and not actual questions and/or concerns from real individuals.
1)Why did my Narc boyfriend call it quits, date another person, then start calling me six months later like nothing happened?
Because he’s a jerk who is playing mind games with you. Block his number, and block him on social media. Seek therapy, learn to value yourself, and waste no more time on him. Get out and live!
2) Whydoes my Covert Malignant Narcissist girlfriend keep saying she needs space, then begs me to take her back?
Because she’s a selfish jerk who is leading you on by playing childish mind games. Block her number and block her on social media. Then learn to love yourself. Try seeing a therapist trained in helping folks like yourself move on, and get on with your life! Best of luck to you!
3) Why didmy Narc abuser divorce me after 4 years of marriage? What did I do wrong?
You did zero things wrong! Now that your abuser has left your life, thank your lucky stars. Block their phone number and block them on social media. Please look to your own self-care now. Be thankful that you only spent 4 years with them and not 40, or didn’t end up in a hospital or worse There are several hotlines for victims of abuse (try your local YWC/JA) that can point you in the direction of a trained trauma therapist who can help you heal, move on, and live the rest of your life as the best you possible. You may also want to speak with your own doctor. They may want to check you for physical damage. They can also give you a referral, or point you to other resources. Some states offer financial and other assistance for victims of crimes in your state. In mine it’s called the Victim Compensation and Assistance Program (VCAP). This program does not require a police report or court proceeding. Your local YWC/JA also may offer services such as therapy, housing assistance, etc. I wish you healing and the very best in your new abuse-free life.
4) How do I deal with a Narcissistic parent now that I’m a parent? My spouse can’t stand them, and doesn’t want them anywhere near our child. What should I do?
First, congratulations on the new addition to your family! Being a new parent is an enormous undertaking that will take all your patience, effort, and time. So why add to your anxieties and exhaustion by allowing a cruel and abusive grandparent to torture you and your spouse? Is that even the type of person you want around the new, fresh little person you’ve both created? Listen to your gut and your spouse’s concerns. And don’t let this person continue the cycle of abuse. Brené Brown has wonderful advice on setting boundaries in her books and Podcast. If setting boundaries doesn’t help, block their number and block them on social media. Find a doula or a local young person to help with babysitting and childcare. It’s a lot cheaper than the therapy your child will have to go through being near this toxic person. But please consider therapy for yourself. Many insurances now pay for tele-psych/therapy, which could better fit your new schedule. Learn to love yourself, and good luck to you and your spouse on your new family.
5) Why is my Narcissistic parent trying to turn my family against me, and what do I do? I feel like everyone hates me now! I love them, what should I do?
I am so, so sorry you are dealing with this. Unfortunately, most folks can have children, and that includes selfish, rigid, or abusive folks. It will never be easy to accept that your parent can’t or won’t be able to offer you the love you crave, need, and deserve. Take heart in the fact that your parent’s behavior is probably well-known in your family. I suggest blocking them on social media and their phone number as a first step. Get a good therapist trained in family trauma and abuse to help you learn that you are not to blame, and to love and cherish yourself. It may also be worthwhile to reach out to your family individually and reestablish one on one contact with them. But be warned, folks like your parent are skilled at pitting people against one another, and they may have recruited others. There’s not much you can do in that case, but do seek out support from friends and family that truly love you. And build yourself a support system with them, or a therapist, doctor, school counselor, coach, or pastor, anyone you trust. You’ll soon discover that your life will be a lot more peaceful, with room to let yourself bloom and grow. Focus on your own interests, hobbies, and life, and surround yourself with those who truly love and support you. Life is difficult, chaotic, and messy, don’t let those who make it worse into your life. And always remember, you are deserving of love, even though you may not feel that way now. Through practice and time, you will learn to stop blaming yourself, feeling unworthy, or ashamed. And grow into the beautiful, loving, and best you possible. Take care of yourself, and all the best to you in your journey.
I hope many of you find this helpful and learn to step out of the dark shadow where abuse thrives. Stop attempting to understand your abuser. And learn instead to turn the soft light of your own compassionate and loving heart on your fears, wounds, shame, your worst moments, and your most raw and painful nerve. I invite you to try this meditation from Sara Blondin’s book “Heart Minded.” It’s the 6th track, but all are both useful and healing. And from the depths of my heart, I wish you healing, love, and a joyful life.
I always liked my birthday. It’s at the end of May, near Memorial Day weekend. The Spring is just turning to Summer. The temperature is perfect, the flowers are blooming, the Sun is showing off. But last weekend felt more like early March than late May. And that was just the topper to a small, private sadness that doesn’t mean much in the big scheme. But means something to me.
It’s not the number of trips around the sun (AKA aging) that gets me down. I look at my long-lived family, and feel encouraged that there’s at least as much in front of me as behind. But, the world is wily. No one knows how much time is left on the clock. So, best to make the most of it all.
But there was a lot of pain this year. And I need to acknowledge it, lest I grow a tumor. I was denied Social Security again, and when I read why, they listed “asthma” as one of my conditions. I have asthma, but that’s not why I applied. So, asthma, anxiety, and neurological issues. But missed that my neurological issues stem from repeated minor concussions due to Domestic Violence. And the CPTSD from my life in a war zone. Because when your life, your home, your body, your feelings and experience are violently abused, you live in a warzone, and there’s no VA for it.
Social Security didn’t look at any of my psychiatric and therapeutic notes for their decision. They didn’t wait for me to submit all my evidence. And the woman who dealt with my case always sounded like I caught her mid-nap. They’ve been working from home, so she may well have been napping. She certainly fell asleep on the job dealing with my case.
On my birthday, we were chatting with the neighbors when my Alpha female Border Collie, Abbey, decided to try to take on their Alpha female Rottweiler. No one was hurt. But the man kicked my dog, twice. And said that she had bitten someone’s face, which is a damn lie, and bit of whisper down the lane gossip. She chased off a dog that was going after my chickens. I got a leash on it, brought it back to the other neighbors. It was a friend’s dog. It’s lip bled a little. I gave them my number. They’re fine. Now I get to hear bullshit gossip about my dog from a man who just kicked her. It’s still really upsetting. Kicking a dog has to be one of the lowest forms of expressing anger.
And then there was the card “from” my two year old niece. It was adorable, and I cried. But I realized that my sister has, for some time, been using the same type of boundaries my therapist recommended for my more troubling relationships. Minimum contact. And it was my Mom’s birthday soon after mine, and that was hard. I did send her a card, but it’s not easy to 1) realize that your own sister doesn’t want to speak with you while 2) you love your mother, but don’t know how to engage without being hurt. And all of it was just sad. Not an epic tragedy, just a small, sad, private pain. One more heartache amid the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.
Things were good with SO. And I got flowers, we ate oysters, and I got a few things. But Saturday I had to sleep because of a migraine. And my nightmare hollering had my dog waking me up through most of it.
I’m down. I have to appeal the Social Security decision, which can take months to a year. I need to find a new lawyer, and I didn’t click with the one my former attorney referred me to. In fact, she was an icy bitch for someone who handles Domestic and Sexual Violence cases. And I realized something I’ve suspected, that my own sister just can’t or doesn’t want to deal with me. Who knows what will happen with my Mom.
I did have a laugh, after a lot of ouchie, when a duck ripped my right thumb open. Yep, you read that right. I had to rescue one of my duckies who thought it could fly. And as I was putting it back, my dog jumped up, and the duck dug into my thumb to push off. It’s funny. Go ahead and laugh. My doctor’s office sure did. But it’s all wrapped, and I get to sport a not-creepy-at-all latex glove on my right hand. Like if Steve Martin’s dentist also did the Moonwalk. Definitely hampers my guitar playing. And I waited a few days before attempting downward facing dog. Guitar and yoga are two big coping mechanisms for me though.
I also had a few perfect gardening days to sneak in the last bits of my gardens. Which was lovely.
But I’d like to thank two people, aside from aforementioned SO. My cousin & her hubby who stopped by on my actual birthday and who I was finally able to hug! And my friend in Detroit, who called me, and we had a good long chat. Even laughs.
So, chalk this up as a recipe for a birthday that can get lost. It wasn’t my loneliest or worst. Just another small, sad non-event. I am still owed a day at the lake though.
Hope everyone is well. Sorry, not sorry for the bummer post.
Have you ever gotten a pimple that you’ve named after a person or stress? “Oh that? Why that’s ‘Newman.'” (Jerry Seinfeld sneers.)
Well, I have terrible news! There is a way to name, recognize, and work through how your body expresses your emotions. But part of it is called “exercise.”
Let’s rename this. We’ll call it “body awareness.” Does that feel better? Cool.
The abused or traumatized are more likely to live a shorter life. Drugs and alcohol, risky sex and activities, abusive relationships, and severe physical aliments such as heart disease or high blood pressure, are generally what the future looks like for those who don’t get help.
A few years back, a therapist first asked me where I feel my psychic pain in my body. And I knew just what she meant. It’s somewhere between my heart and stomach, about where the rib cage begins. I had never really thought much about it, but she knew to ask about it. Now, in my Trauma Therapy, my therapist has turned me back to focus on that place.
In the meantime, I had gotten back into yoga around the time of the Pandemic and lock downs. And I realized there was a whole bundle of issues hidden within me. Making me — keeping me — feeling utterly powerless and miserable. Which is a sure recipe to whip up a brew of depression and rage.
My new therapist was happy to learn I practiced Body Scans and yoga, and we incorporated a softening body meditation to our sessions. Either at the end of our session or the beginning. And I began to really get a sense of where I was holding myself tightly, or was stiff, even how I was sitting. I am beginning to become familiar with how my feelings are expressing themselves in my body.
And, as my yoga practice deepens, I’m growing to know my body better. What each little knot, weakness, and buldge hold. It’s also taught me I can be strong, flexible, and feel better in my own skin. And it makes me happy, proud of myself, and feel more in control. A sure-fire method to improve my mood and work through anger.
While every other medical tradition from the Romans’ “healthy mind in healthy body” to India’s Ayurvedic medicine recognizes the link between mental and physical health. We in the West see this as an epiphany. At least I did. As do the tons of wellness articles I keep stumbling upon.
But is it really surprising that you’ll feel better mentally if you feel better physically? Or vice versa?
As for me, my therapist helped me see that feeling in my stomach and name it Shame. A shame so crippling that my posture was slouched, my limbs were weak. My ass got, um, assier every moment I sat locked in frozen fear of doing anything because I was sure it would be wrong. So getting my back and core stronger, and opening my chest and shoulders more has become foundational. And I do see and feel the difference in my posture. I’ve both worked on and learned more, but I’ll leave that for another post.
I am beginning, every so gently, to learn to open up in that space where I feel the Shame that cripples me. That locks me in place. That makes me feel stuck, powerless, and pathetic. And that drives my anger. It takes patient, loving practice to soften the pain parts and strengthen the healthy me parts. To learn how to let go of the fear that holds me bound. To trust in myself enough to make a choice to do a thing, and then do it, even for a half an hour yoga session. It gave me some confidence.
I’m not prescribing yoga in particular. Any type of movement makes you aware of your body. Strengthens, unknits, and loosens. I do recommend Body Scans, though. You simply breathe as you notice each part of your body, and what you feel there. This is enough to help let go. And a useful tool for stressful moments.
There are tons of Body Scan meditations on Spotify and YouTube. I recommend trying a few. This guy’s voice sounds like Alan Rickman, and somehow that’s incredibly soothing. But find the one you like. Quiet your mind. Listen to your body. It holds your story, and your future. Hopefully a future without Newman!
*Author’s note: Yoga, exercise, and meditation won’t prevent tumors, or heal them. Maybe figurative ones. But, you know, balance. A little Western Medicine and some ancient wisdom.😉
Monty Python’s Parrot Sketch is a master class in Gaslighting. And as absurd.
Let’s pretend we’ve all lived under Commie rocks in North Korea our entire lives, and look at this famous comedy sketch afresh. See what it can teach us about Gaslighting. Shall we?
If Gaslighting is driving/convincing another person they are insane or cannot trust their own senses, thoughts and feels, then the Shop Keeper (Michael Palin) is the Gaslighter. And the Customer (John Cleese) is the Gaslightee.
Cleese returns to a pet store where he recently purchased a less than alive parrot. Cleese confronts Palin, who is sneaking a smoke behind the register and pretending to close. Cleese stops him, and explains his dead parrot issue. Palin’s Shop Keeper drives Cleese from polite customer to a ranting, shouting maniac, banging the parrot on the counter. All by simply denying that the parrot is, in spite of all proof, dead. A frustrated Cleese leaves after being offered a slug, and Palin moves into a song about wanting to be a transvestite lumber jack.
As the John Cleese in this exchange — no matter what you say, no matter how much you beat that dead parrot — you will never be in the right. And the best you’ll ever get out of this argument is the offer of a slug.
Michael Palin does not care that he sold you a dead parrot, he will do and say anything to convince you the parrot is not dead, drive you crazy trying to prove the parrot is dead, and maybe offer you a slug for your troubles. All he cares about is being a transvestite lumber jack. And, to him, you’re the thing stopping him from that dream of cross-dressing lumber jacking. And he feels no pity in making you pay for his dissatisfaction with his life. It’s YOUR fault!
There’s not much we can do about the parrot death-denying shopkeepers of the world. They will continue to sell dead parrots, and will persecute anyone who calls them out on it. It’s not their fault they never got to be a lumberjack. It’s clearly yours. No matter how much you wish them well in pursuing their Canadian dream. You’re the one annoying them with a dead parrot!
As the unfortunate purchasers of a dead parrot, the best we can do is look for that inner Graham Chapman to show up and declare our situation “entirely too silly.” Listen to that voice! He’s right. It is entirely too silly to lose your mind over a dead parrot. Everyone knows it’s shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. That it is an ex-parrot.
So what can you say to your Shop Keeper? How many times must you beat a dead parrot for someone who does not care whether they sold you a dead parrot to begin with? You don’t. Say nothing. That’s all you can to protect yourself from the crazy-making, Gaslighting Shop Keeper, apart from accepting the slug.
Just remember, it’s not your fault they never became a lumberjack in heels. It’s all too silly to continue. So don’t.
“A Shame Narrative,” my therapist called it. I call it “Ermergerd this is impossible I can’t think about it without getting agita and crying. I should probably wash all the baseboards or nap.” Then I stumbled on the picture above, and I realized I had found a safe way to approach my Shame.
Trauma therapy is beyond what I’ve ever experienced in therapy over about twenty years. It’s good I have that basis in self-knowledge, Mindfulness, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. But trauma therapy is the big leagues. It’s definitely scary. And it can be draining.
The two most important parts are an empathetic, well-trained therapist, and my desperate desire to manage the constant nightmares and other paralyzing affects of CPTSD on my life.
I won the Irish Sweepstakes in therapists. She pegged me fast. She asked about where I feel my pain in my body. And used my interest in meditation to develop a regular practice of body scans before, and sometimes later in a session. She took the bare pieces of my story, my responses to the scans and stimulus –such as the Pixar short “Float” 🥰😭😭😭😍 — and came up with Shame.
And she’s right. I’m not sure when it started, but I was very young. Possibly under 4. It’s this drop in the heart, and a burning, twisting sense of being powerless, unlovable, and utterly alone in a pitiless, dark, lonely void where no one cares, and I don’t matter at all in this world.
She said, we can use my story of those feelings to help provide a “Portal” to slowly reach through to my trauma. And then I get to write a Trauma Narrative. Huzzah? But the approach makes so much sense because the feelings around those memories are too raw for me to even go near. Even while they break into my daily life as nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or my (over or under) reactions to triggers.
But how to approach my Shame? I’ve always felt that, as long as a person experiences real, unconditional love at some early point — through a grandparent, teacher, mentor, etc — then that person will always hold that feeling. And they will have a chance. I’ve had a lot of mentors and teachers in my life, but the first and best was my Dad.
Dad loved mentoring young people. And he had many “adopted” kids. Mainly my cousins and his former students, ending up the Best Man at many marriages (six times in the case of one unlucky-in-love student who called him Dad). He was both professionally succesful, and never lost that bit of 1st Sargeant he learned in the frozen hell of the Korean war. Dad served in Truman’s Desegrated Army. It equipped him with the ability to work with and inspire others of any type. So long as you didn’t play “grab ass.” He questioned his young acolytes and listened, and questioned some more. He was genuinely interested in the thoughts of people, especially young people.
And he had that same interest in me as a growing human being. Usually we’d be doing an activity. Sky watching, driving around following the local grocery stores’ free samples schedule (Dad could usually old-lady-flirt his way to extra samples), and during art lessons. But the best times were fishing, like in the picture above.
I’ve found my way to get to the Shame by viewing my gnawing doubts, fears, anxieties, and self-loathing from the point of view of the girl my Dad saw. Dad dubbed me “Loney.” (Lone-ee) When I look back at myself as Loney, I have more sympathy and compassion for myself. I see the curious, dark eyed girl he saw and loved. And I can cast that into my future that he never saw nor will.
If I view myself as Loney, it’s a step removed from recording Jessica’s feelings of Shame. It’s my way in through that “Portal” described by my therapist. Slowly, the idea is to increase my understanding of and exposure to the most delicate pieces of myself, my experiences, my Shame. But I feel I can do that if I remember Loney and carry my father’s love for Loney in my heart.
Late February in the Northeast: The snow hasn’t time to thaw before the next storm. I’m not even trying to clear it off. I have stacks of forms to fill out, and tax records to organize. There they sit. My yoga and meditation practice were interrupted by rebellions in my sinuses and lungs. My routine is reorganizing around three separate forms of weekly Zoom therapy (Trauma, speech pathology, and vision) and PT. It’s the longest month of the year, despite what the lame-stream calendars say.
So, how not to go full Nicholson? How/where/what to do to dig out? If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or the effects of (C)PTSD dysregulation — or are simply feeling overwhelmed — I’m here to say “Do the Easiest Thing.”
When I’m literally and mentally snowed under a growing mountain of stuff I have to do, stuff that keeps me able to do those things, and the stuff I enjoy doing — it may as well be Everest. Yet it always comes back to me doing The Easiest Thing.
Let me explain. Amongst the blizzard of crap I’ve read over the course of the Pandemic regarding mental and physical health, one suggestion has stuck. Do the Easiest Thing that helps. Look around. Where are you? What can you do with the least effort and/or the least time to lift yourself up? Sounds easy, but it’s taken many a rock bottom fall for me to begin adopting this practice.
Let’s talk about the sorts of Easiest Things I do and don’t mean. Absolute #1 thing not to do? Don’t doom scroll social media. Do not read the comments on an innocuous-looking post about local vaccination sites. Don’t get into a pitched internet or personal argument. That’s not helping. Don’t do it.
That doesn’t mean your phone is off limits. But unless you open that demon device with a clear intention, best to steer clear.
Which leads me to My Easiest Thing. Music. Specifically — 🥁🥁🥁 eye rolls ready? — I listen to Morrissey/The Smiths. There’s something about his unfailing pop instincts, mixed with with that voice, and his witty/intelligent/alt-culture outsider lyrics that picks me up. He would never insist I be happy, and he shares his everyday struggles and loves and losses in a voice that always croons, floats, yodels, and growls to me afresh.
Before long, my mind gets caught up, and my body follows. I may start to sing, get up and dance, until I feel well enough to do the next easiest thing: like the dishes! All while bopping about and singing “lalalalala interesting drug!” Heck, I may wipe down the counters. I may even make or at least prep for dinner! Or sweep the disgusting floor!
Suddenly, I find myself singing in the shower. And — while hours may have passed, and I didn’t necessarily get to anything particularly pressing — I wasn’t staring at the wall or a screen. What I did was simply give myself a completely healthy mood boost that made slightly more difficult tasks seem within reach.
To be honest, sometimes that mood boost may only lead to teeth brushing or playing with doggo. But heaven knows I’m not miserable now. And that’s my bigger point about The Easiest Thing.
And that one thing, that playlist, is simply a way to bring me to present, back to at least the steady kick of Sister I’m a Poet. From foot tapping, to standing and moving isn’t too far to go. It’s just a foundation of feeling better that allows me to build up to tasks that require more effort, concentration, or presence.
You can take your own progression at any pace you please. Your easiest thing may be a shower. Or a phone call. Or having a coffee or tea break. I choose music because it only takes opening Spotify and pressing play. It also lasts, and gives my mind and body a little something to groove on.
Of course, I’m writing this because I hit another bottom, and resorted to My Easiest Thing. Hopefully, in a week or so, I may be back to my yoga, cleaning schedule, or that mountain of paperwork, or that Everest of snow (w/an assist from the sun🤞🏽). Maybe eek(!) out another blog.
Then I’ll stumble and fall, because that’s what I do! But I can fall right back into the arms of my favorite music.
What’s your Easiest Thing? How do you keep picking yourself up when you’re snowed under? Leave a comment, let me know. And ya know, maybe pour something out for Spring to hurry along.