Category Archives: writing

The Cambridge Chronicles. Part 1 Cambridge Can!

I’m having a change of a change of heart. When we first came down to scope this town for our move, we loved it. We fell in love. And all schmoopie eyed, we came here for a job offer.

The three months we waited at the hotel until we found a house were nearly intolerable. I am at least glad that my suspicion of our real estate agent and his job wasn’t paranoia, but my bullshit detector. Cold comfort for pain.

Once we got in several crises popped up. I need a therapist. So I need insurance. So I need. . . Once that was over, a few surprises turned up. One was freaking Covid.

Covid tested my delicate grasp of reality. I’m still just getting my energy and stamina back. Stan did not get it or was asymptomatic before I caught it. But honestly I’m glad I’m all vaxxed so I don’t go to the hospital and DIE. I also isolated and wore my mask, so as to NOT endanger others.

There was also the discovery that we cannot make front facing changes to our house without consulting a “Historical Preservation Society.” What? Excuse me? This was some oyster shucker’s and his forty closest relations. Like it’s Cape May or Haddonfield. Or Independence Park.

It had me in a twist for a bit, along with life. Although, as I recover from Covid, I’ve fallen in love again. And even kinda giggle. Some of the best aspects are facts like I can walk to fish. I can walk anywhere in town in 20 minutes

I knew it had a bus system. But I was looking and listening for big city buses. Like Septa. But then Stan pointed me to the short buses everywhere. Those were the buses! I mean, great routes, but “Aw, Cambridge!”

Which is when I also realized that the houses around here, even the nice ones, aren’t that nice. Tenements, big house, some about Civil War, most 1890-1920. But, you know, they’re cute.

So, now I gotta laugh at the Historical Preservation Society. It’s so earnest.

“Cambridge Can!” is the name of the local neighbor’s society. And that about sums the place up. Short buses, oyster shuckers, and clapboard houses next to form stone. But you can fish! Take the bus. Walk. Crab. Swim. Some nice restaurants and cute shops! Rhys Darby should be mayor.

Cambridge Can!

-JL ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ––๐Ÿผ๐Ÿค“

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The Gift of Fear. How Do You Defeat the Ghosts of Evil?

Officer Edwards testifies to the January 6th Committee.

As I watched the January 6th Committee, the ghosts of that day and the year that followed flashed through my mind. The assault that began that day continues to this, replaying itself in my dreams, my waking moments, across the country, and just next door.

I remember watching the towers fall on 9/11. The shock. The fear. The worry for friends. But that day was an assault from beyond the US. Watching the events of January 6th, 2021 unfold in real time was far more terrifying. The barbarians were within the gates, and they were fellow Americans.

What struck me most during Thursday night’s January 6th committee opening statements was Officer Edwards’ testimony. I immediately identified with her because she looks like me. Not physically. I mean her eyes stare like mine. Most people don’t realize that traumatized women do not blubber and weep. Weeping makes you look weak. Crying brings disdain. Instead, we have the hollow look of the veteran with the thousand yard stare.

Watching that woman testify to what she lived through and witnessed on that day — a day she had never trained for or anticipated — a day she should never have been forced to endure sparked flashbacks of my days of fear. Of what I have endured, before January 6th, 2021, and since.

Before my senior year of college, my father died after a long battle with cancer. My world shattered. I wanted to crawl into the grave after him. Living seemed impossible, and death was easy. I chased death for a long time before I had the courage to turn and face life. It came naturally for me to write that journal of an ambivalent Union Soldier. Like Officer Edwards, life had become a war zone.

I had begun trauma therapy by January of 2021. And it was still new and scary. But it was something I needed to do. I also began reading Gavin de Becker’s seminal book The Gift of Fear. De Becker taught me what I wish I had known long before my father’s death, the red flags of violence and abuse. How “sweetness” how gotten women killed and raped, and how listening to their fears and bravery had saved them.

Now, after a year of harassment and being swindled, led on, and used as a punching bag yet again by evil human beings. After abuse reached into my home where I finally had felt safe, after living in a war zone my entire marriage and after. I had developed that stare. I could sense a threat over miles, yards, feet, inches. And I could stare it down.

Yet inside, the pain and brokenness had not disappeared. The anger was still there. It is still here. I want my abusers punished as I want the rioters of January 6th who killed police officers they profess to embrace, and gave Officer Edwards her stare.

There is a reckoning coming. Inside me and without. I don’t know what the result will be. But like so many young people who never should have faced a war zone, I have embraced the warrior I was made to be. And I am reminded of the line in Full Metal Jacket, when Joker asks a helicopter door gunner how he kills women and children. “Easy. You just don’t lead them so much.”

And that is how much pity I have for those who harmed me, who harmed Officer Edwards, who harmed and still mean harm to the innocents of this country, and its fragile democracy. I don’t know if my ex-husband is alive or dead. I don’t care. His death would be a blessing for other women. But I will search down and face the demons that have harmed myself and others, and who do or seek to do harm.

How do you defeat racists, ignorant and evil human beings? Brutes and barbarians without Covid vaccines, type II diabetes, and two brain cells two rub together? Easy. You just don’t feel for them so much.

Save your love for you and yours, for the innocents, for those who never should have experienced the horrors of life. Love your values, hold them tight. Do not become the evil you despise, but fight it with the fear and skills of the warrior you have become.

– JL โœŒ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ––๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ”ฅ

PS- I have Covid at the moment. I’m fine. All vaxxed up. Stan is negative still.

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The (Reframed) Story of My Life. Birthday Edition!

Look at all the pretty candles.

Listen, if I told you half the frustration I’ve felt without the ability to write, you’d wipe that judgy look off my face. There’s no pain so perfect as judging yourself for what you can’t do anything about. (Except for a Grand Marnier hang over.)

Regular readers will remember this gem I wrote about how badly I was beating myself up physically. My hand and wrist are taped up and in a sling now. My RIGHT hand. I am not left handed.

But I still am a writer, even when not writing per se. One of my favorite, exciting and new writing challenges I learned in therapy, where it’s called “reframing the narrative.” A boring example is to ascribe normal, human mistakes or misunderstanding to someone or something that ticked you off or upset you.

A fun reframing is “Aw. Macho man randy Putin can’t go around with his shirt off anymore, his dick is giving out, and that was always suspiciously homoerotic behavior from a homophobe anyway.” It doesn’t negate anyone’s suffering, but it cuts the bad guy down to size. Like the old joke about the German who “knows nutzing!” Or Charlie Chaplin’s rip on Hitler and Nazism as Adenoid Hynkel in The Great Dictator, or M*A*S*H the TV show.

Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin) and Napoloni clash over egos and Italian food.
Alan Alda as Dr. “Hawkeye” Pierce.

So, there I was on my *mumble mumble* birthday, feeling beat up and wiped out. So, of course my brain went immediately to “age.” But, truth be “reframed,” didn’t I actually feel like 5 yr old me who broke her arm skating, lied about it to see Lady and the Tramp, and caused my mother shame when she finally got me to a doctor? Was this much different?

I ended up taking the fishing rod Stan got me for my birthday to the pier and caught a fish on every cast. I even got two at once on my rig. We went together the next day too. And I felt like a kid catching spot and catfish. Just like our dock at one of our old houses when I was a kid.

We had other adventures since, Stan and I. Meanwhile I’ve been reading, and trying to write, even though it’s not helping my hand any. All I can say is speech to text is clunky and not for me.

But I broke through something that has been gnawing at me while in therapy. That is “what’s my next writing project?” My therapist pointed out that I was recounting other people’s tales of themselves, particularly after trauma. That I had written the story of “Survivor Jess.” But who had I become? Or am becoming? Who was Growth and Flourishing Jess? How do I become her? How am a going to reframe this time around? How do I make some story with sense from the senseless?

I turned to one of my first loves as a writer. Kurt Vonnegut. When I first read him as a teen his anti-establishment, absurd world switched my brain on. But, reading his Slaughter House Five, or The Children’s Crusade, this time around I saw a man who had PTSD, trauma. He was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge, and as a POW sheltered in a slaughterhouse during the Allied fire bombing of Dresden. And this was his way to “reframe” his experience.

Like his main character, Billy Pilgrim who has come unstuck in time, perhaps I can find a new way to reflect on my life. Billy wished to share the truth of Time to comfort others. Maybe I can work something out that makes as much sense as thinking a dead person was simply in a bad way at that moment. But in other moments, he just fine, and we can visit those other moments when we like. What’s my grand scheme of “reframing” that might be a comfort or encouragement?

That is what I can do to wipe the judgy look off my face. I can write. Through physical and emotional pain, after the perfect pain of this long Grand Marnier hangover. That bull crap can fertilize my growth.

Wish this Pilgrim luck, and see you again at this point in our orbit around the Sun. “If the accident will.” Til next time, and so on.

– JL โœŒ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ––๐Ÿผ๐ŸŽธ๐ŸŽ‰

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