The writer and reader has this old fashioned, Futurama reporter voice plus sass and ‘tude to spare. Shirer was a reporter in Berlin and Vienna for CBS until late 1941 when the US declared war on the Japanese Empire, and Hitler declared war on us in response. He watched Hitler’s rise to power up close. He has his personal diaries. Plus, he uses information from “secret captured German documents,” first hand records from within the 12 year Reich.
As he loads his cannon with facts, he dresses down these slimeballs like they deserve. Less “the most evil minds of the 20th century!” More, “carpet chewing,” “enormous waistline,” “drug addled,” “former pimp,” and “pervert.” A lot of “Beck knew Hitler was talking out his . . . hat.” The names like Von Stupnaegel. Minor characters who “ate half a pound of ham to calm down” after meeting with Hitler. And he always is keen to note how each of these characters ended up, mainly hanged. Hurrah!
Sure you have to gut through the barbarity, but that ultimately is what gives moral impact and urgency to the book. Those are the stakes. Saving humanity from these inhumane men. But I also know how the story ends. Bunker tirades, poison, bang!, shallow grave on fire. And Nuremberg. 👍🏽
He doesn’t spare the Brits or the French for the sort of blindness that makes me want to reach through the book and strangle the appeasers like Chamberlain. He is kinder to Roosevelt and Churchill. But makes note of the hypocrisy of our treatment of American minorities, the British colonies, and the Americans and British who defended the Nazis, like Charles Lindbergh and the shamed Prince Edward.
He speaks honestly about the so-called “Good Nazis” such as Albert Speer who used slave labor. And the German generals who later said they opposed Hitler all along, yet still planned and executed his campaigns. He gives credit to the heroic attempts on Hitler’s life, particularly Valkyrie. And the actual guy who was played by Tom Cruise was an even better man than depicted, and handsomer.
There are some exciting stories, like the rescue of Mussolini, which would be a great movie except it’s about a Nazi daredevil pilot and, well, Mussolini. I would love to somehow find a way to make that story work.
There are the journals of Goebbels. The diary of translator Dr. Schmidt. The actual words and thoughts. Like lackey Jodel’s lament that none of the Wehrmacht got how brilliant Hitler was. The infuriating treatment of Russia by England, forcing them right into the arms of the Nazis. The drugs, the sick parties, and 3 hour monologues Hitler made his dinner guests endure.
It’s absorbing, interesting, horrifying, and entertaining (which even this history still needs to be), yet its ultimately a warning.
I catch all sorts of odd reactions to my obsession with memorizing this tome. But ultimately it’s not much different than reading The Lord of the Rings or any high stakes book or film, except it happens to be true. Yes, it’s factual, but it wouldn’t have survived all these years as THE book on, well, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich if it weren’t also True, powerful, and moving. Even if you are laughing at the impossible German names.
Dark times are sometimes best reflected on through a mirror. The past several years have been one long dark night. And this is the book that helps me through. Because it’s over. The bad guys lost. Hitler and his cronies are dead. And while mass murderers, like the shooters in Buffalo, NY and in Christchurch, NZ, are reaching back in time for the same old Nazi B(aloney) S(andwich) and pseudo-science, and “Florida Math” sounds a lot like the “Aryan Math” that rejected Einstein — The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich may also be the most important book out there. Did you know that the Nazis actually encouraged young Aryan women to have children without co-parents and raise the babies of their rapists? Mm-hm. You could also do far worse for storytelling. Have a laugh at these freaks, but take them seriously, and keep hoping that the good guys win. Or at least suck on the sweet tears of defeated Nazis.
– JL ✌🏼💙💛🖖🏼🌻🎸
PS – If you’d like a PDF copy, you can contact me via my “First Contact” page in the menu. Also, cut me some slack. I listen to Morrissey to cheer myself up. That’s how I do!
My father was the target of an International Conspiracy. Every time the man approached an empty intersection “a friggin’ parade” would pass by. Pulling out of the driveway? “Everyone and their mother” had to pass by our house.
Furthermore, someone was attempting to kill this man at all times. “Jim, you’re killing me.” “Frank, you’re killing me.” Even parts of the Trinity got in on it. “Jesus Christ, you’re friggin’ killing me.”
If only I had it so good! I am in league with myself against myself. The center of my own conspiracy. I am friggin’ killing me.
I don’t begin my days thinking, “How can I hurt myself today?” Maybe I should start. Maybe I could plan it out better? I am open to suggestions.
Allow me to list this last week’s round of self harm. I cannot even believe the first one because it was straight out of my Father’s Greek-o-vision.
If you are unfamiliar. Take the story of Oedipus. A young man runs away from home because of a prophecy that he’d kill his father and marry his mother. What’s the worst that could happen? Oh, if you’re thinking being sold into sex-trafficking, bless you darling innocent!
Oedipus travels, is forced to kill a man, becomes King and marries a Queen. And now for the twist! He was adopted! And he killed his bio-dad and married his mom after all. Then Oedipus gouges his eyes out. Like ya do.
So, that’s true Greek thinking. That and making sales people cry.
Long ago my father pointed out a dangerous bannister he was positive one could catch a pinkie finger on and tear it off! 😳 Yeah, right…OK, yeah I just did that thing. My pinkie is still attached, but my body continued forward. First down me!
I have also been cutting myself. Most recently with a soap dish! (I get creative.) I literally asked for it. I asked Stan to get a not-for-camping soap dish. He got this cool stainless steel thing. First time I used it, I dropped it. It bounced off my head before somehow gashing open my pinkie toe. Hitchcock would have been pleased with the blood in that shower, and the bathroom floor, half a roll of toilet paper, gauze, bandaids, towels. Finally I taped it tight, put on black socks and went to bed. Try practicing Sun Salutes without the top of your foot!
Truly, my Dad had a long list of things “you haven’t lived until” they happened. Like a burning cigarette butt between your toes, “cauterizing” one’s toes with boiling water, etc. Only the annoying part is that — while I may have laughed at his warnings — since his death I have either experienced any and all of these, or met people who have.
In life and in death, the man insists on always being right.
So the right pinkie finger I balance my phone on and use to pick my guitar. And the pinkie toe I also need to hold a plank. Oh, and then there is the right thumb and arm I almost jammed up roller skating, but was wearing guards! Too bad I wasn’t wearing them the next morning when, walking my dog, she bolted across the street and I fell on the same hand, jamming up the entire right side of my arm, including the thumb!
I have managed to harm every extremity and the attaching bits on the right side of my body in one week. Just by going about my life. And yet I expertly pulled my dog back onto a dock after she thought swimming might be a good idea, and I can hit a forearm stand!
Maybe it’s how I rush around. Or maybe I just need to develop my Greek-o-vision. Whatever it is. This is my cry for help, as I balance my phone on my right pinky finger, and type with my jammed up thumb to elbow to shoulder situation to write this. Help me. Maybe bubble wrap? Didn’t work out for Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes, but I’m not dressing to impress. I just want to stop hurting myself! Wait…maybe it’s a conspiracy! Everyone and their mother is friggin’ killing me.
If you have been following this blog, you’ll know that I spent nearly a year coping with and escaping from evil people who made hating me a lifestyle. You’ve followed my story to our New Year’s Eve escape to a hotel where we lived with our dog and cat for three months. So, it is time for an update.
We have moved! And I love our new home on the Chesapeake Bay. My neighbors don’t seem to be actively out to get me, which is a pleasant change. In fact, there is quite a town atmosphere, with lots of neighbors of all stripes, nice restaurants, art galleries, and every dog on the street barks just like mine does! It also has a contagious sense of civic pride. And Harriet Tubman lived here. Freedom for me meant moving South. Go figure.
But one of the million pieces of fallout from my move to freedom was that I had no therapist for months. My therapist was not licensed to practice in this state.
I have done everything I could think of to keep my emotions in check. I failed a lot. But I just needed to gut it out, I knew. Once I had a permanent address here, and became a resident, I got the help I needed to find a new therapist. I found her through Psychology Today (the best way to find the specific help you need). She turned out to be a woman from Poland. Who better to understand trauma than someone from a nation that spent a lot of time not existing, or being tormented by Nazis and then Soviets?
I saw her this Monday past, and it was a revelation! She loves the book my previous therapist and I used, spoke about Jung, and didn’t blink when I spoke about Camus’ The Plague and being an Existential Humanist. Ah. Eastern Europeans, you know what we Greeks have been on about for ages.
But, most importantly, she is older than I am. I am too far gone to be seeing therapists working on their doctorate. Besides, as late Gen X, Millennials are well, like they actually think like shit should work like it should, ya know? And they like trust people? What-ever…🙄 #trustno1
I am happy about our first meeting. It’s always rough to start with a new therapist. But I felt good about her. I think she will challenge me more, too. I speak and write a decent game, but it doesn’t take too long to realize I have some “issues.” But I am not often challenged. I hope she challenges me.
I felt incredibly sad after our first meeting, and it took a day or so to work it out. I need a place and person to break down to. I’ve held myself so tightly, and continued to function as well as I could. But I need permission to let it out and let go of the trauma of Buttface Becky and her single-celled organism of a husband. I NEED to cry.
Only after I have let this go, can I truly begin to heal. Hopefully, this woman can help me. Until then, I hope she just lets me cry.
“No, Walter. You’re not wrong. You’re just an asshole,” The Dude (Jeff Bridges) admits to his bowling buddy Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in The Cohen Brothers 1998 Noir film meets the end of The California Dream, The Big Lebowski.
I would accept that description of myself. If I also were not wrong and an asshole so often. I get it often enough, but my reactions need help. I am not to the point of pulling a piece in a bowling alley, yet. But my anger response to a perceived wrong, lack of set rules, or disruption is not too far from Walter’s.
Walter is a damaged Vietnam Vet with PTSD. He is divorced, yet still cares for his ex-wife’s dog, and strictly observes Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. He is a man trying to cling to structures with meaning. They ground and reassure him. And when his routines, rituals, and structure gets disrupted, he lashes out as only John Goodman can. Big and loud.
In an early scene we see him casually talking with The Dude, the old hippie, and Donny, their ex-surfer friend, when he screams “OVER THE LINE!” to an offending bowler.
Walter clings to structures for comfort. His reaction is to overwhelm others by enforcing the rules, at gun point if need be. He even needs to control when his friend Donny speaks and corrects The Dude’s use of an Asian slur. By the end of the film though, we realize that under all that camo and tactical gear is a scared 18 year old kid who lived through “a world of hurt.” In fact, it turns out he is not even Jewish. He converted for his ex-wife.
But it is Walter who quickly realizes the solution to the mystery of the rug that really tied the room together. He even mentions how “Un-Dude” his friend is being for getting hung up on the “ins and outs.” And he goes whole hog in his attempts to help The Dude on his quest. These are all traits of PTSD. The clinging, whether to habits or routines, rules or people. The shit-losing when anything pops its head into his life with an unwelcome thought. And yet he stares down arch-rival bowler, The Jesus, while Dude stammers. And he will mess up a couple of Nihilists who killed your car with a quickness.
His tears at the end signal the restoration of order and peace for him. The Dude needs Walter. But Walter also needs The Dude. Because The Dude is the one man chill enough to give Walter the grace to forgive himself. When Walter apologizes, The Dude says, “Fuck it, man.”
What the movie doesn’t explicitly show, however, is the embarrassment of being Walter. We with PTSD are simply not cool like The Dude. We tend to be rigid, hold ourselves rigidly, follow routines, and construct a framework to hang the point of life on. And that protects us from the scary truth that our suffering was and is pointless. As all suffering is.
The end result is sometimes you just lose your cool and freak out in a diner over the accessibility of a severed toe. Then Pride holds him in that diner seat long after he has embarrassed himself and The Dude.
Embarrassment, shame, self-loathing, or disgust generally fill the calm after the fit has passed. And it is something I have had to face down fiercely as I do my last days to week in this hotel room. All of my life is uncertain right now. All structure is gone. I have formed habits already to keep me sane in this room. But after living in fear and uncertainty for seven months now, I have had my share of outbursts.
But I have come to realize that I do not have to sit in the diner where I embarrassed myself. Walter eventually breaks down in tears, admits how wrong he had been, and apologizes to The Dude, and to Donny posthumously. “Fuck it.” Says The Dude, as they head off into the sunset to the lanes.
Feeling the shame, getting unbent, and apologizing are the keys. And if you are lucky enough, you will have friends who tell you to “Fuck it” and go bowling. I mean, in the end, all that is wrong — and there is plenty to go around in this world — sometimes flips our asshole switch. And it feels awful. Nobody wants to lose their cool. Good thing all those cool Dudes need us as much as The Dude needs Walter. Because we will do anything to get back your goddamn rug that really tied the room together! Eh, fuck it. Let’s roll.
The day I described in my last installment of this series, and the citation I received, were not the end of my former neighbors’ abuse and harassment. But let us rewind a bit.
I had managed to get the male neighbor cited once by a nice young officer who was very sensitive and well trained. The neighbors were outside doing this elaborate, loud play acting…about me. They mocked my disability, accused me of being a “Welfare Queen” — thanks for that Ronald McDonald Reagan. It went on for a while, so I called the police.
I had gotten mostly the same responses from the other officers I met. “He’s got free speech.” 🙄 Yes, freedom of speech. The First Amendment, and the least understood. Folks are fond of saying “Freedom ain’t free.” And I suppose they imagine bravely standing up to tyranny. To me it is basic causality. Sure, you are free to holler insults at your neighbor from your yard, but it does not mean that speech is free of consequences.
We all know there are exceptions to free speech. Usually when words can cause harm: a panic, violence, lies about others, etc. So this bright young cop was fantastic! Finally, right? He came, talked to them, then left but told me to call again if they said anything about race, or threatened me.
Oh, my neighbor obliged. As soon as the cop left, he helpfully shouted at one of my security cams “she’ll wish she were [ducking] dead.” Bam. Harassment and Terroristic Threats.
The day I described last time, with my loud mouth and criminally awesome dance moves, was a week before his hearing on that charge. He had pleaded not guilty. So, when the cops came, the female neighbor and pals went to work!
The next evening, Stanman and I were sitting on our couch, around 10ish. Watching Star Trek: TNG on Netflix. Again in my pajamas. And then this knock. The one you hear in every crime show. The “It’s the police, open up!” knock. I went out onto the porch to talk to them. It all seemed wrong. There were four cops on my stairs. They looked like the SS. Black outfits, all holstered up. One particular future Einsatzgruppen member did the identification thing and told me I had to come with them on a 302 Emergency Commitment Order.
That is when I knew the whole thing was Baloney Sandwich. A 302 is a court order that allows a person who is a physical threat to themselves or others, or cannot take care of themselves to be committed to a mental institution against their will. They are difficult to obtain for the obvious reason that it is a power that could be abused (eh-hem). Normally, a social worker, someone from CRISIS, or a therapist/psychiatrist would initiate or weigh in on this. My therapist was not contacted. Often they are requested by family. And you cannot break into someone’s residence for a 302 unless there is an emergent situation, such as screaming or fighting. We were watching Trek. Mox nix, right?
I had been 302’d once before. I attempted suicide by taking a ton of NyQuil and Benadryl. My Mom and sister found me and took me to the hospital. I came around. I was still free. Not in restraints. But I was so angry, I hissed “I wish you let me die!” at my Mom. My Mom was a social worker, who worked with probation or parolees with mental health, drug/alcohol, or developmental disabilities. All minor offenders, but she knew the system.
Mom looked at the ER doctor and nodded, and then I was restrained. The place I went was more One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest than Girl, Interrupted. But basically, you have 3-5 days to be seen by a doctor and case worker, and have a meeting to judge whether you are still a threat or not. If you are calm, do what they say, and stick to yourself, it is not hard to get out of. You have to be very badly off to be committed in the long term.
So I knew how it worked as well. I knew the mental health system in general. I had been in it since about 19. My female neighbor wrote up something that basically said I had mental health issues and broke things on her lawn. (Because she called our house “the tenants’ house,” remember?)
It was delivered by Officer Einsatzgruppen to a Crisis worker, with access to all of my health records including my current treatment, whom I had never seen before or spoken with, and was a prison secretary to sign. And then the head of the County’s mental health board signed it without seeing or speaking to me either. (I see you Angie Krepps Alvarez! Sharon Harlacher! mwah!😘)
After hemming and hawing for an hour, and mentioning my neighbors on the darned Ring cam in plain sight (shrewd!). Then they broke down our door. Stan had already called 911 because he didn’t think they were real police either. They cuffed Stan, cuffed me, almost let our dog and cat out, and took me to a cruiser. Or some kind of car, it was dark. And I just resolved to stay calm. Losing my temper, being cranky, anything could have led to my actually being committed or jailed.
It is one of the odd consequences of PTSD that in the worst moments I don’t feel much. It seems like I am not me. I am somewhere floating above, or buried deep inside, or watching a movie of a life. So it was with this. I began to go down a thought hole of what may have happened to Stan. I pulled hard out of that downward trajectory. I could not think of anything else but breathing and remaining calm.
The doctors were confused from the beginning as to why I was there. They asked about my neighbors, and I said we had an ongoing dispute but I had no idea why I was in the hospital. And neither did the doctors. They couldn’t even find the legal order to commit me. From the hospital where the thing was written. Why they did not ask for it when I arrived is a question. But by 6am I was in the jeep back home with Stan, who they uncuffed and left to call every hospital looking for me.
We were home as the sun came up, we had a beer and went to bed. When we woke up it had sunk in. The extent of the violation. The broken door. The fact that four cops could be spared to take me to the hospital on a vendetta. But that night our neighbors effectively said, “We can touch you anywhere.” The same chill, creepy, skeevy feeling crept over me as other times with them.
We realized we were not safe in our own house. We couldn’t even call the police. So we packed a few important things, got our dog and cat, and drove to my Great Grandma’s house where family still lived, across the bridge in Lancaster County.
I took a selfie that next day.
The male neighbor changed his plea to guilty (freedom is wasted on him), so I couldn’t give this information as testimony that next Monday. He was fined $50.
So, yeah, that is my story of how far my neighbors and my community went in their hatred of I do not know what. Stan and I spent the next month and half packing and cleaning for dear life. He started looking for new jobs far away. We looked at a couple of states before we decided. But he had to empty his retirement fund to finance this move, start a new job, find a new house, and sell the old.
The funny thing this whole time is that the male neighbor used to sit up by his garage (the better to see me from) and listen to John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” I love that song! Who doesn’t like John Denver? He hung out with muppets!
The irony is that I AM from the country. My sister and I mainly grew up on two different farms in New Jersey. We had lots of acres, and would ramble about with our big white Lab, playing pretend. I collected the eggs. My sister tossed in scratch. We had turkeys. At one point we had a goat. I am a country girl, who spent a chunk of time in cities and abroad, but I am still as outdoorsy as ever.
They hated a phantom of their own imaginings. An idea of me. Not me as I am. And they would have gotten around to hating us for something if their Rottweiler had not have killed my duck.
They took nearly everything I loved: my chicken ladies, my ducks, my gardening, my peace, and they reached right in that house and tried to take my freedom.
So, we left that house at 6pm on New Year’s Eve to the booming of fireworks. Hours later, we checked into this hotel. And here I have been. But it will not be for much longer. I have had some time to process, through these blogs partly.
The harassment continued until we left, with gems like this:
But here is the actual tragedy. While those four cops were busy sending me to the hospital, a bare week later they let a mother of two’s Emergency Protected from Abuse order wait 24 hrs before acting on it. And that night her ex-husband (and ex-cop) kidnapped those little girls. He eventually shot them and himself in a ditch on the side of the road. And that mother has not received any response or justice that I know of since. They had officers enough for me, but not to enough to save that woman’s babies.
I had that sign down after some phone calls. My life has sucked for so long. But things are happening. Soonish. I should have the tools by now to heal and reframe the stories I tell myself, question the words and names used to describe me, maybe that is why I made it out. That same mechanism that kicked in when I was being cuffed and taken to the hospital. Or maybe I am finally letting it sink in that it was them not us. Not me.
Today I appeared to face my female neighbor for a complaint she issued against me. It was interesting. The citing officer had some real hate in her eyes. And I probably could have answered her last question better with an “I don’t know.” But hey, Einstein says no backwards time travel. So I have to get OK with it.
This part of my tale picks up in early November. I woke up one lovely morning and went to take doggo for walkies in my pj’s and robe. My male neighbor got in his truck, drove a few dozen feet, stopped to get a good look at me, rolled down his window, and began with his running commentary on my life.
I had it. After five months of this, I was sick of it. I told him off. Said he was a creep and to quit watching me. Well, every time I went outside, there was the banging and the comments. Finally I just starting hollering kind of like Nicholson at the end of The Shining while he’s hunting down his son to murder him. Upon reflection, the dehumanization of the character of Jack by the Western notion of “The White Man’s Burden” and responsibilities of being a partner and co-parent seems rather appropriate. I did not, however, grab an axe. I pinged an aluminum baseball bat on the concrete.
I had therapy that day. Took a shower. Practiced yoga. Danced to Morrissey. Took some stuff down from the attic (we had already decided to move). Killed an evil old printer Office Space style. It felt kinda good. Like I was Robert DiNero for a minute. Someone who has physical power and a presence that demands respect. Unfortunately, I look like a yappy Chihuahua when I am upset and angry, and my level of respect commanding is set at Rodney Dangerfield.
Then, around 4, the female neighbor came home and started setting up a camera pointed directly at my yard. The male was in the garage. They gave each other a thumbs up when he got the signal from it. I told her off too. Creeps. I could not just live my life in peace. Their hatred was that intense and constant for that long.
I cannot get it myself. Anger is exhausting. And their anger often involved cutting off their nose to spite their face. Destroying their fencing and trees, repeatedly allowing their Rottweiler onto my property where they knew my cameras would see it. And then they would get another fine. The time, the money. For what? Me!?
Well, even though my therapist and I had gone over baiting and not taking the hook. I took the hook that day. Watching and listening to myself from the neighbor’s camera was difficult. It was not my best moment. But she had made me feel so shameful by moving her finger around and myself willingly dancing for her.
She made me feel dirty. But today I got to do a thing I had not done in months. I got to look her in the eye. And my shame melted. This human being was giving false witness to continue to harm a person she had abused. She still hated me.
In the end, they could only prove that I was a loud-mouthed Jersey-girl. So the charge was reduced from “fighting,” and “mooning” (She does not deserve to observe my fine buttocks) to a noise disturbance. Yup. Loud-mouthed Jersey-girl.
The judge seemed fair. My lawyer did well. The little humbling stung at first, but I walked doggo around the hotel. It is warm and sunny today.
I stopped being angry. That female cop, who knows her story? But I can guess at some of my neighbors’. And they are sad. The male cannot think to do anything better than obsessively hate. And she called our house “the tenants” house to puff herself up in front of folks. That is sad. She is sad. He is sad. I am not aware of what that female cop’s major malfunction is. But all these grown people, stuck on hating a nerdy, disabled, 5 foot tall introvert — for I what, I cannot guess — were just sad.
A good hard look at yourself like I had today is uncomfortable. But it was not bad. I felt pity for that person screaming and dancing. I came back inside and did another yoga practice and meditation. And my heart softened towards both myself and all these sad hateful folks. I felt pity for my neighbor. How unhappy must she be?
In the end, it was allowing myself the grace to stumble and fall and allow myself a very human mistake. And also finding the grace to recognize tortured souls. Angry souls. To separate myself from the pain and trauma they inflicted upon me, and see things and people as they are. And open a chink in my heart to “hating the sin, and not the sinner.” I am not ready to forgive fully.
I still have a lot of trauma and pain to work through. But I already could see in my neighbor that she had not moved on, while I had. Not completely, but I physically moved. And she was still stuck in the place she was born. She had never left. I had. My Stan-man and I are in a new town that we love. And we got good news today. Tune in next time to find out what, and follow me to the hospital after the police break into my house, next time on “Jess has a big mouth in type as well as IRL.”🙄😉
– JL ✌🏼💚🖖🏼💐🕺🏻🎸
P.S. You may have already noticed the ads, please let me know if they are too much, or where they should be. Big changes are coming to my blog including: hosting different authors, merch made by friends and family, a #buynothing swap shop, exclusive music and video, the opportunity to access special content, donate, and easier ways to like, share and comment! As the cop said to the glazed donut: stick around.
This is my new minimalist art. Last week it was “The White Album” and White whales, this week it is all about black because it is slimming, “I have that which passeth shew,” ” ’cause black is how I feel on the inside,” and all the reasons cited by Johnny Cash. Pick one.
Last week I took a trip through my first year of trauma informed therapy. This week is more challenging. Looking forward! I say challenging because of all I have gone through — particularly the reason I am still writing from a hotel room — getting run out of town by psychotic neckbeards. But also because I was stuck. Weighted down. Angry, listless, and depressed by turns. I had lost any sense of who I was or was becoming.
A perspicacious woman once told me I was very “intentional.” I am a fan of plans and planning. It is very much like only wearing black. What should I wear? Black. What should I do? Check the plan.
We plan and the gods laugh. I know. I am Greek. And inevitably your black clothes will stop matching as they fade. Last January I had no reason to think I would be living in a hotel room. But I did begin the work of thinking about where I was in life, and where I wanted to be. And, as an unexpected side effect, I added color to my closet.
I wanted to look and feel like myself again. The Pandemic weight upset my self-image. I was depressed. And that made me feel and look old. Even my posture had become hunched. And no amount of black tunic tops was hiding anything as they got scrubby looking and dull.
So I started a mens sana in corpore sano (healthy mind in a healthy body) journey that helped push me to think more about where I was going, and aided me through the unending trauma that was nearly every day since July back at the former [ducking] house. And I got some clothes…with color!
I went back to yoga. I first got into yoga and meditation as a teen when I was reading a lot about The Beatles. I was a good gymnast as a kid. Yoga seemed to come naturally. And I took two semesters of yoga in college with a great teacher. And it worked hand in glove with my anatomy classes (yay art school).
But I really committed last year, and I have done about 669 yoga classes since then. Maybe half were Sun Salutations, but still!
Yoga means “practice.” So you could think of all life as yoga, as practice. And like life, it is not static. Neither is it all “aaaaah.” I curse plenty at the lovely Australian woman on my favorite yoga app. Yoga requires focus. You work with your mind, breath, and body. Even in stillness, your breath moves you, as you hold your mind and body in gentle intention.
That gentle intention is called your “sankalpa,” and it took time me to find. Simply, a sankalpa is a short sentence in the first person, present tense that signifies your reason for any practice, it can be “I keep my floors clean,” “I do not drink alcohol,” or “I bring peace to the world.”
It is both a heartfelt desire and a promise, and it is gentle. I spent a lot of time in meditation and yoga nidra searching for my sankalpa. And it turned out to be very simple. It was as strong and flexible as my body and mind were becoming. And it was always there. But life, past experiences, traumas, hang ups, difficulties of all sorts crusted it over, and I became hardened to even myself.
Through my work in therapy, and the work we did to find the softening of the the body that allows us to truly listen to ourselves, I came to see what I had forgotten. And my journey now consists in continuously bringing my mind back to my sankalpa, what I give myself as a purpose, my heart’s desire, my promise to myself.
Of course, a promise is nothing. Air, pixels, ink in a certain form and order. Unless you honor yourself and the one you make the promise to. In this case, both parties are you. But having a practice, a promise, and are committed, gently, to honoring yourself helps.
Your sankalpa is your own. It is not shared. Please do not ask your yoga class crush, “So, what is your sankalpa?” Protect what is precious, gently.
And you thought the whale post was esoteric! I did go through a change, a shedding of mental, emotional, physical weight. Of crusty old thoughts and feels. And of pilled up black tunic tops with bleach stains.
I have bright pink, purple, and blue yoga tops! Pink walking shoes?! And you cannot go around in yoga pants (now with pockets!) without tennis socks in fun colors. And you know what else? I can still just order five packs of everything from Amazon, and switch out dirty yoga top to clean yoga top of different color! Fancy.
So, after a lot of softening, strengthening, shedding, and clarity seeking: I decided on my sankalpa. And here I am, still in my hotel room, living it now. Practice can only lead to exploring where this will lead me, but I have a general idea, gods willing and the crick don’t rise.
So, that is where I am, and where I am looking to go. The woman who helped lead me here, my therapist of the last year, with whom I have to part ways. In her shining smile and laugh dwelt hundreds of happy fairies. Her gentleness, boundless joy and compassion, and halo of light around her blond hair, made me think of Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings. And she did possess a light, like the bottled starlight the Elven Lady of Lorien gave to Frodo to light his way when all other lights went out. It is as awake as a plunge into ice water; a diamond reflecting warmth, strength, kindness, and love, gently.
Thank you for everything Haley. Including the homework! I love professional students. I am looking forward to this new stage of my life. I went through an enforced crisis. I know what I can do. And I have every confidence that something is bound to turn up!
Fans and decidedly non-fans of Moby Dick will remember “The Whale Chapter.” Like “The White Album,” that is not its name, but that is what I call it. In Moby Dick, Ishmael takes us on a long, slow ride through cetology, just as the Pequod’s voyage is getting under way. After the lengthy description of all things whale, Ishmael declares a whale a fish. I kind of like it.
My therapist thought it would be helpful to do a look back at our year of working together. After several attempts with markers and pencil and mixed media and my guitar, I decided to write it. That is what I do!
This can be my Whale Chapter from the trauma and tragedy I have been chronicling in my last two posts, and maybe my conclusions will ultimately be wrong! And I will declare a whale a fish. One can never be sure.
Over a year ago, I spoke with my doctor about how normal therapy was not helping. In fact, it began making me worse. Two places in a row had dumped me. One most unceremoniously. That is when I began getting pictures of my brain taken, and was referred to Trauma Informed Therapy.
I looked back in my journal and discovered I was really into Hannibal at the time, and I called my first session “rough.” And it was! You can skip back to my first post on it.
There are two especially difficult pieces. The first is learning to establish and enforce my own boundaries (which may contribute to me living in a hotel room), but also how to be kind and mindful of others’ needs and boundaries as well. It is a difficult trick. I hope I am getting the knack of it. It is kindness.
Also, I learned to really forgive. I know we all have that spiritual ick inside us. That makes us feel shameful or unworthy. We all have it. Love it out of existence. Unclench, soften, breathe, relax right into it. And it will pass. You may even see what a lie it really was.
Have a therapist to guide you back to integration with those pieces that you want cut off. They will check your thoughts, or suggest a different point of view. A good therapist is invaluable. I never like when folks only take pills. That is just to steady the foundation. The work that you rebuild on is the work you put into therapy.
Anyhow, now for whales. I think I’m turning into Bob Geldolf in The Wall living in this hotel room. I even broke a guitar string. Yeh-heh! I can not get either my desktop or laptop online. So I have been doing credit stuff and online apps on my phone. It is not cool man.
I keep busy. I clean the place, practice yoga and guitar, do my work for the day, argue with my dog. Fairly normal. It’s not like I’m dying to get out. I mean, I have zero desire to go out in below freezing weather no matter the lovely backdrop. I would rather be warm and safe.
But, in the end, it is liberating to be able to name and call out your problems. But be careful. You must face it, fighting will take you down with it. Learn it, know it, name it, face it, but you fought that monster once. Do not try that again.
And now I’ve come to the next part of my assignment: figuring out what to do with the rest of my life. Yeah. That is all. Get over my recent traumas, move, restart life with new purpose. Whales are fish. And I’m happy to be back in the USSR, thank you.
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 tragedy 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.