Author Archives: JLakis

About JLakis

Jessica Lakis - Writer/screenwriter. Geek & mental health blogger. Conqueror of the Useless. NERD INVICTA!

I am Human and I Need to Love.

We all need comfort, love, and thankfulness right now. This is a blog about those precious things, and finding, in the end, what truly matters.

Around twelve, I realized that pop radio stations were no longer playing music that meant anything to me. This coincided with two other catastrophes, puberty and a move in the middle of the school year. I had never been popular. But at least I shared the “my parents moved from Philadelphia” and even the partial Italianess that most of my South Jersey peers did.

We moved to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Home of the Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch (who are German). It was rural. It was conservative. And it was heavily Evangelical Christian. It was a lonely time. Until I discovered Morrissey. And he hasn’t left me since.

When I first saw him on MTV with his band, The Smiths, he exuded this vulnerable, anti-macho, yet aggressive form of “It.” There he was, singularly beautiful yet awkward in his gangly beanstalk body with his institutional glasses. Dressed in thrift store blouses and costume jewelry, he warbled his witty lyrics and literary allusions as cover to his air punching fists. He flagellated pain and cruelty with bouquets of flowers. He created anthems dedicated to hanging DJs who played music that didn’t speak to his life and the savagery of our mistreatment of animals. He wrote lullabyes for his nephew. Used words like “Mother” and “Dad” without negative connotations. Described his sexual tension and longing with gender swapping lyrics and words like “conjugal bed” and wanting to get his hands “on your mammary glands.” He sang in falsetto, his natural baritone, he yodelled and laughed and sighed his songs.

He embodied everything the rock of the day was not. He was clean cut, shy, British, declared himself celibate, lamented the sadness of his post-industrial home town, and the cruelty of romantic love. He was the friend you’d hang out with in your room on long afternoons listening to music, just talking or not.

As I grew, so did he. More mature, growing into his six foot frame, writing torch songs so vulnerable that I could only imagine Sinatra with his tough guy image tackling. But it didn’t seem to bother Morrissey. He let people gossip about his sexuality, while remaining wisely mum. Anyone could love him however they wanted. He had no labels. He was his own.

“Dear hero in prison with all the new crimes that you are perfecting, Oh! I can’t stop quoting you because everything that you said rings true.”

And the music developed. He worked on his voice, all three octaves of it. He wrote about the fame killers received and chatting up hair stylists in order to snag an appointment with the same level of irony and aggressively free and unerring pop sensibility. He laughed at himself. He wrote songs that predicted where his life would go, comparing his music to a used condom that you may fondly remember from those momentous days when music and love were everything to a young heart. 

He committed the most elegant, unsparing, and gorgeously lush midlife crisis ever to disc in Vauxhall and I. Families broke up, old friends went their separate ways, and there were folks waiting to use you, hoping for you to fail, or waiting for you to die. It’s a perfect album. But then he just kept going.

“There’s going to be some trouble. A whole house will need rebuilding. And everyone I love in the house will recline on an analyst’s chair quite soon.”

He worked with Ennio Morricone (composer of spaghetti western soundtracks such as The Good the Bad and The Ugly) and his orchestra at the iconic Cine CittΓ‘ studios in Rome. He never ceased to experiment, adjust and develop his voice, or call things as he saw them, which he lampshaded in the early tune Big Mouth Strikes Again.

But, while he changes, he’s still the same deeply weird dude whipping gladioli around his head. Except now he’s a man who loves his nephews and nieces, mourns his mother’s passing, and contemplates the passing of time and mortality marginally more than he did before. He loves his fans. His fans love him. It may be his most enduring love affair.

And I’m one of those fans. I designed a full-sized flag of him to hang from a pole. He’s all the flag I’m willing to fly. I keep his albums, CDs and cassettes like the day I bought them. I have his Funko Pop doll. Tee shirts and buttons too numerous to count. And of course my hair is faded, and I can style it up in that 50s pompadour.

But why? Why would a grown person be so silly for a pop singer? Because he steals from Oscar Wilde and Kurt Vonnegut? Because he uses words like “sycophantic” or calls out Oliver Cromwell in a rock songs? Because he sings about his shoes looking shabby or his hair being flattened by rain? Because his voice exudes warm, buttery depth and wraps you up in a warm velveteen blanket?

“Freedom is wasted on me. See how your rules spoil the game?”
“You have never been in love until you’ve seen the stars reflect in the reservoirs.”

That’s all part of it. But he has always been there for me, too. Through my teens, when my Dad died, after my Dad died, and beyond. And yet he’s temptingly forbidden.

How does a “nice young man” become forbidden? Well, because Gen X dudes still think it’s OK to use “gay” as a put down. Because Rage Against the Machine and Wu Tang possibly appeal more to young men than Morrissey’s underhanded, self-aware self-deprecating style. Because of the absolute shit-fit the media throws at whatever happens out of his unguarded mouth.

“I have forgiven You Jesus for all of the love You placed in me when there’s no one I can turn to with this love.”

Before I married my x, he liked Morrissey and The Smiths, but that door closed as he was drawn deeper into alcohol and cocaine, mainly. Then he decided to hit me, a lot. His irrational hatred of vegetarians, which included me to a point. I couldn’t have anything or anyone for myself that I loved and made life worthwhile to me. Not even the music that comforted and saved me. I wasn’t “allowed” to listen to Morrissey. But I did. In secret. Which is why those jewel cases, albums, and cassettes remain intact. You don’t cut drugs on Morrissey’s face. Not on my watch.

I’m not being dramatic by declaring that Morrissey saved my life. Not just then, but in the horrific period when I left x. When I began seeing an old friend. And since. Whenever I felt sad. Felt alone. Felt angry at life’s vagueries. Or just sticking it to The Toxic in a decidedly British by way of Dublin fashion. When I felt most alone, when I howled into the void, Morrissey could get through to me. If I’m depressed, Morrissey commiserates, and then throws in some fun, danceable pop, laughing at something, anything, until I am up singing and dancing with him.

Life right now feels like The Pit of Despair in Princess Bride. The machine that sucked years of your life out of you. Or the ancient curse, “May you live in interesting times.” So maybe I need to soothe myself with what I love. And cherish them.

All of that. Because what comforted me and i cherish most is that friend I dated. We’ve been together now longer than I was with x. And I have never been able to actually see The Mozzfather in concert. Ever. But Morrissey will be appearing near us, and my guy got us tickets.

“And when you’re standing on my fingers, Ah — can you see it in your heart?”

I haven’t placed any expectations on the show, entitled “An Evening with Morrissey.” I’m even attempting to manage my expectations that he’ll sing that night. He’s never been the show must go on type. No, this feels more like a pilgrimage. For the experience of Morrissey up close and real. If I were Catholic, he’d be the Pope.

He takes gifts from his audience from the stage, signs autographs, and hugs stage crashers before security ushers them off. I’ve wondered what I would do, bring or say if I had a chance. I’d definitely take the hug. I’d probably thank him. After all, don’t I have the thing he sings about wanting most?

I have love. I will hug and thank my dearest friend and partner, Stan. For buying the tickets, for knowing what it would mean to me, but also because he is the man who has stayed by me for real. Because somehow, two wrongs make a right with us. Thank you, my handsome Stanman.

Thanks to Moz for getting me to Stan.

-JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ–€πŸ––πŸΌπŸ’

Check out my Instagram!! And connect with me on Facebook here and here.

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I Got Nothing.

The wild wastes of Blackwater Preserve.

I don’t have any new insights to share. No confidence to try to impart. No tips. No anxiety hacks or depression busters to offer. Normally I wouldn’t even write at a time like this. When I’ve got nothing.

If I could sob on your shoulder, I would. If there were distractions that still worked, I would be distracted. If I could walk my dog without sunglasses hiding my eyes, I would greet the people I passed. If I could hear over the earbuds pumping music in over my thoughts, I would listen.

But I have no listen left. No smiling greetings. I got nothing.

Behind me pain, before me terrors, and me now in the moment between the two, submerged. Aghast. Unable to look.

When is resilience not enough? What if all the running, the working, the planning, the sweating and clawing don’t end up in freedom? When is the way of Dufresne closed forever?

This is all wrong. I should have died or fallen out of the game decades ago. And yet I continued on. There had to be more. I would be more. I would succeed. I would overcome. And I did, until I could no longer. I can’t run anymore. I can’t plan. I can’t think. I can no longer bend with the wind lest I should snap in two.

This isn’t why you read me. This isn’t why I write. This should be when I struggle hardest. This is when I’d fight.

I walk my dog. I pet my cat. I tell the people I love that I do. That’s all I have. Cheerful encouraging words? Hopeful thoughts? Look elsewhere, I got nothing.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ–€πŸ––πŸΌ

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Sitting with Discomfort. What can we learn by looking at our thoughts?

Embracing one’s brokenness with love. (Made with nightcafe ai image generator.)

After last week’s post, I thought I ought to qualify my neuroses worship. Yeah. It’s good to laugh at ourselves for our most difficult bits. I may laugh at my social anxiety for what a dork I am, but what if I stopped and just observed me being anxious for a few minutes? What might I learn? How could that help?

Well, for a start, I can stop being my thoughts. If we get a charley horse, we don’t shout, “Ah! I am a charley horse!” We say we “have a charley horse.” (Now I’m really curious why this is called a charley horse…OK. Turns out it’s from baseball.) So why do we say, “I am anxious?” Not, “I have anxious thoughts?” HMMMMMM!? Question this we must.

Sorry upfront for speaking the “M” word. Mindfulness has been co-opted by the corporate world to “incentivize” those folks who are overworked, underpaid, and/or without proper health care. Wellness as free pizza day. But that doesn’t negate the actual benefits mindfulness habits can reveal to us.

Mindfulness really only requires one thing. A point of concentration. Think of this as an anchor. We may drift from it, but when we wander, we can always return to that point. Mindfulness in meditation mainly focuses on the breath, observing an object, sense, or repeating a word or sound. It can even be noting the sensations in the body.

But we can practice mindful anything. We can take mindful walks. We may focus on the breath, the sensations of walking, and what we can sense or observe. We simply pay attention to one, or shift between senses. If our minds wander, we keep returning to the anchor.

The point is not to “stop our minds from wandering.” That’s what brains do. So, when we discover our minds have meandered off, note this without judging. Either the wandering or the thought, then return to the anchor. This is what strengthens the mind, helps us keep calm, undistracted, and in the moment.

Anxiety is intrusive, stressful, and spiraling thoughts, often about the future. If we find ourselves anxious about some paperwork or some hypothetical scenario of doom, this is when we note and observe this feeling. If we can continually keep pulling our brains back to our anchor in the present, the more easily we can remain safely and calmly moored.

So, instead of spending our time worrying, the quicker we get that paperwork done. Then no more worry. And if we can look calmly at our hypothetical scenario of doom, we might discover what is really at the root of that feeling. Overtime, we will get familiar with it so it has less and less of a grip over us and our lives. We may even laugh at it in blogs.

As I said, we can do just about anything mindfully. Coloring is fun. Simply keep putting down colors in a way we like. Playing an instrument requires mindfulness because it is time based. Have to maintain the rhythm, which requires being fully present in the moment.

I like yoga, besides the health benefit, it requires concentration on many things at once. The breath, balance, proper form, activating or relaxing certain muscles make me feel like I am juggling my own body. Lots to keep track of. Yoga has the added benefit of letting me feel where I an holding pain or tension in my body, and release it.

Sometimes in yoga — or any mindfulness practice — we may discover an old hurt or wound. We may suddenly find ourselves crying over something we had forgotten, but that has haunted us in some other form like anxiety or depression for years. And that is when we get to know ourselves a lot more.

Mindfulness also provides us with tools to deal with those discoveries. Practices involving self-love, forgiveness, gratitude (sorry “G” word), and compassion all help us put back together the pieces of ourselves that are broken.

Again, we could practice mindful dish washing or toothbrushing. The object is to keep bringing our wandering minds back around to our anchor. Each time we do this, we are working that brain muscle. Each time we get a little stronger, learn a bit more about ourselves. Then we can gently handle what we learn so that we can be calmer, happier, better, and more compassionate people. And we may end up with a new skill.

My yoga practice improves every time I practice. Even when the actual practice goes badly. Especially then. That’s why it’s called practice. [Gah! AI meme.] The same goes for basically anything “you put your mind to.” So pick a thing, any thing. Put aside a little time aside regularly for your thing, see what you learn, and if you can’t learn to laugh just a little more more at your inner dork.

NamastΓ© you legends.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌπŸ§˜

Check out my Instagram!! And connect with me on Facebook here and here.

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