Tag Archives: goals

Self-Portrait: Mid-Winter

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Self-portrait, oil on canvas paper, Jessica Lakis  (WIP)

I have to light a fire. Every morning I must clean and light a wood stove. Sweeping before and after fire-making.  I empty the soot and ash into a black metal can with a handle and shovel. (Is this what is called a “scuttle?”) I will empty the ash on the compost. I let the dog out with me while I gather the tinder and wood from under the kitchen porch over the basement entrance, where Stan has stacked it.  Hauling the wood up the curving basement stairs, all the stairs curve here, I trip a lot. It’s been below zero C for weeks. I detest the cold. I curse a good deal. Sometimes it’s my Father’s voice mixed with Walter White. “Jessie! Your mind isn’t on what you’re doing.” Fair enough.

After earning the Tom Hanks moment of achieving the early human magic of fire, tea or coffee may now be had. And that’s how about every day has begun for weeks. I place humidifiers and air cleaners to protect my assaulted sinuses and lungs. I long to open the windows. But still I must clean. I have finally begun to realize and actually do what I need to survive this bleak, blear of holidays and the long nothing afterwards.

For weeks I waited for Star Wars. Stan and I made a date of  seeing the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which I adore. I even like Rose. She seems closer to me. I tingled to the new connection between Rey and Ben Solo (I suppose that’s what everyone calls Kylo Ren now). It’s unexpected and gorgeous. But a dark and heart-gutting story. Leia’s key role underlines how much I miss her, and will. My champion on screen and off, she’s gone forever. Nevertheless, my bright spot of December unleashes sobbing. I feel as though Star Wars has caught up with current events and the current mood. And I think of what Yoda tells Luke: failure the best teacher is.

Although I am back in therapy, my mood drops. I still had two weeks until Stan’s vacation. I begin to feel lonely and sad. I cry everyday, and every Sunday night sends me into a terror facing the loneliness of the next week when Stan goes back to work. All through the freezing weather and short days. I am tired of telling others that I don’t have the money for presents, so please don’t get me one. Even though Stan and I have permanently sworn off Christmas because we are both unbaptized nonbelievers, and we don’t have children, I am still sad. Like the O’Henry story, but neither of us has hair to sell or an expensive old watch to pawn. We instead spend our gift cards on gifts for each other. Trips to Michael’s! See Star Wars again. We are very happy.

I start recovering myself by doing more. I decide cheese sandwiches is not a healthy diet, and begin working on vegetarian cooking. Cooking in general. And Stan roasts a pork loin and eats it with my cabbage, potatoes and beans the week of the New Year. I shoot the old shithouse on the hill with a 20 gauge on New Year’s eve. I am ashamed that no one had shot the shithouse with a shotgun before. Stan throws M80s. It was dangerous, and fun.

Having found myself utterly without words to express what is happening to me, so I draw. My mother buys me a portable easel with a large, partitioned drawer. She’s also added a large tube of Titanium White, medium, and turpentine. So I begin to oil-paint. And without having used oils or drawn the human form for ages, I obviously attempt a self-portrait. I cannot correct the fractured skull I under-painted.

I start again. I suddenly realize that, better than the small makeup mirror, are selfies I take under the light I want. I suppose I never thought of it because I’m old. I began painting for an hour in the morning and one in the evening, to let the paint dry. The under-painting worked. Suddenly I’m doing classical thin to fat oil. What I learned in college and from my father over years rush back. Every piece of advice. Every admonition. Suddenly, a passable painting emerges from the cheap canvas paper. In the background I paint the design of the carpet at The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. It seems appropriate. I am proud, even seeing the flaws. Soon the crying drops away, and I just paint.

I become a happy hermit again. Oblivious to the problems outside my door. I chuckle at the ridiculous headlines of “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius,” which pops up as Breaking News from the NYT to my inbox. “President Trump declares self “very stable genius.” tee-hee-hee! The anxiety is a bit harder to ditch, but somehow I manage. Black box pinot noir contain four bottles of wine, and cost 22$. I add seltzer, and let myself have one or two in the evenings.  My tongue loosens with Stan, and we communicate and assist each other with each others’ “goals” for the New Year. We play games and “art” together. Talk about improvements to the house.

I lose some of my cool when my Mom texts me, at an inopportune moment, with several times and dates to choose from to see my sister’s show.  I feel hassled and annoyed. And again someone wants to pay for the tickets I cannot afford. The internal drama and stress family issues cause me ensues. Does my sister still hold a grudge over me? Is she simply the same little sister who tortured me between play? My younger sister who convinced me to clean her room for her. Made me feel guilty unless I slept in her bed. And would wait at the top of the steps for me, then jump out and scare me. I was certain I’d find my end at the foot of those long wooden stairs. I get the distinct feeling that I’m someone she calls on a schedule, like a grandmom. I wonder if it’s possible to love without liking. Perhaps I am to her a childhood playmate from whom she has moved on, but calls on birthdays. But she never speaks of it to me, so I don’t know. My Mother wants to keep us together as a family.

That drama still ongoing, I have fitful desires to go outside because the temperature is just above freezing. I enjoy being the local hermit again. I race Abbey down the lane because it’s too cold to walk. And then there’s my four sets of curving stairs. One second floor bathroom. I suppose I’m exercising. I still dance in the morning or whenever I really feel the urge. I stretch to the rhythm of The Smiths. My body commanded to move as though I were leisurely yodeling, or growling and gargling over a sharp, embarrassing and private pain. I add The Pogues. Angrier displaced Irishmen. Infinitely unhappy, but determined to live while they can.

At last, I find myself able to write and paint at once. Something I haven’t done since high school. So, I suppose I’m managing myself better. Perhaps in a few months Scatman Crothers will have to save either Stan or myself. Save us both!

In the meantime, I have a fire to tend.

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate. 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

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Never Giving Up

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What I feel like.

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What I look like.

 

Spoiler: Life is actually the exact opposite of Forrest Gump. Screw that feather on a breeze. Life is more like Google Maps. You have to know your destination to get directions. If you want to know what to do, you have to know what you want and, just as important, what you don’t. Then you have to scream it at yourself until you just believe that shit.

Have you ever done that thing where you imagine yourself in five, ten or fifteen years? It’s weird, but it really helps. I know I used to do it all the time when I was a kid. All this awesome stuff I was going to be and do. And I had the right idea, too. Just keep doing the thing I was/wanted to be good at. That strategy has never failed me.

But you know how stuff happens. I lost my biggest fan. The playing field broadened. And then I found I’d go any short space without everyone telling me how awesome I am, and I lost all confidence. How could I not win that contest? How could I not be the fucking best? I must suck and be awful and i’m a loser and oh god i wanna die…

Oh yeah, and then there’s the folks who go out of their way to remind you “you’re not the center of the Universe.” Yeah, I kind of figured that out, now shut up. I had to really shut those voices out. But the voice I needed to shut up so hard was the one in my brain that started to say that too.

Yeah so, I got to a point where when I imagined myself years on, aside from my own funeral, I could not see anything good. So that’s when I started labeling the “me” and “not me.” And please, all you older white dudes who’ve benefited from nothing but privilege your entire life do not pull the Alan Watts Buddhist routine on me . My ego’s done been broke down, bitch. I need to build it back up on some better foundations, thanks. Besides, why ya gotta try and hold a gal down, boyzzz?

Oh that’s another thing. Being a girl/woman/female. I guess I was raised like a boy. I learned to throw like one and tie my own fishing knots and all . But it was always about what I could achieve and not really about pleasing others. My Mom was just as likely to be organizing a strike as taking me shopping. And of course Dad because, ya know, he never got his Sammie (the boy my mom was supposed to have). And he really dug the fact that I wanted to know everything, and learn how to do everything. He wanted to help me with that. And he did.

It was really weird going out into a world that expected something else from me beyond brains and talent. I taught myself some female stuff, but I internalized some of the bad in that as well. Mainly the worrying about others and what they think more than yourself. That’s a bunch of bull and mainly the reason why those old male baby-boomers need the Buddhism more than I. To be fair, guys my own age know more about tough times. We’re closer to our Great Depression, WWII grandparents than Boomers. You guys had it all then blew it for the rest of us. Thanks.

But I digress, so I started to find “me” and “not me.” What then? Well frankly, I started to get pissed…at me. Which was a start. But recently I realized I had to take it further. It’s not about repeating “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And gosh darnnit, people like me.” in the mirror. No. I have to scream it at me.

Every day all the time. I’M NOT GIVING UP ON YOU JESS!  I can’t expect anyone else to do it. I’m not even asking. I got this.

And, yeah, I’m still a big geek. . . like YUUUUUUGE. Well actually a five foot one geek with myopia and allergies. In my mind, I slay!

Take care of yourselves brothers and sisters, you’re ultimately all you can count on.

So, cue the Rocky music.  And remember: Never give up. Never surrender.


JKHOA: What Can I Say?

The Seer - de chirico

One of my favorite images. The Seer, by de Chirico

 

For two weeks I’ve been posting here everyday except Saturday. Time to take a look at the experiment and get some new plan set out. See what I’ve learned.

I certainly have plenty so say, and I’ve hardly run dry. But, honestly, this has become a slightly more formal version of my journal. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But looking back, mainly I just sat down with some tea and Mozart and started typing without a clue as to what would come out, with varying success.

Honestly, I got more responses from my nearly absurdist posts, with less interaction for the ones that I gave more thought to. I don’t know what that means. It could’ve simply been the day on which those posts were made. Maybe this the sort of thing Google understands. I surely don’t.

Also, I don’t know if it was the Mozart, or the lack of pressure I felt about what I was typing, or the caffeine in this chronic chai I’ve got (I mean the tea. I’m a tea snob. Shut up.), but even the posts I put more thought into weren’t much. I was just really goofing off the entire time. I almost feel a bit of fake. Sometimes when a thing is easily done, I don’t do it as well. Hey, or do I?

Anyhow, so aside from getting through a snowstorm, having the plague and some Nicholson level cabin fever, what’s next for Jess? Well, that’s a deep subject. (Yes, that was a very bad pun.) Dah! Darned if I know.

I suppose I’ll keep up on the blog here twice a week. I’m going consider which days. It’ll most likely be a combination of my stats for each day over two weeks combined with whatever the heck I feel like — probably a strong emphasis on the latter. And as I seem to find it useful to keep talking about myself and whatever happens to be on the brain that day, I’ll stick with that. By far my most popular posts are tagged “Geek”.  And while I also have a high level of nerd in me — I guess I’ll just keep on with my super-nerd/geek self.

I’m not apologizing for being me. I will continue to consider Star Wars, Roman military strategy, whatever video game I’m playing and documentaries about irrigation and flood management in ancient Mesopotamia with equal enthusiasm. After all, what is being a geek if not simply being a rabid fan of “your thing”. I don’t see any conflict between my enthusiasm for Galaxy Quest and that for ancient epic poems. If anyone takes issue with that, I don’t care. I just don’t. Go write your own damn blog.

But how about your book, Jess? Well, part of myself that just has to make that “B” an “A”, I’m glad you reminded me not to let myself slip. I was reading back in my journal to when I was working on it full-time. I’ve also been looking over my old notes, and I got some interesting thoughts from the feedback on the rough chapter I posted, but what I need is a new outline. And that will have to come before another chapter, because I don’t like the next chapter as it is. Let’s make my outline a goal for this week. That should satisfy my self-loathing. And make me happy. Not being disgusted with oneself is generally conducive to personal felicity.

I will post the next chapter when I’ve done the outline. I enjoyed that. I saw its shortcomings with far more clarity.  Possibly with the knowledge that someone was actually paying attention to the thing. Which is really why I’ve taken up the ebook idea anyway. I’ve got all these screenplays that I send out, and sometimes they get a read or something, but generally they just sit taking up hard-drive space.

Unlike Kafka, I did not take up writing with the notion that all my work should be discovered in a sock drawer upon my death. I write to speak to other people. It’s the best way I know how to communicate. So, at least with a book I can “publish” online, a series in which I’m interested and invested in the character and story, and hope that more people will read what I’ve done. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do. I hope they feel something when they read it. I hope they geek out on the reading as much as I did on the writing.

I guess I’m just here to talk to folks, and this is the best way I know how. So that’s probably the biggest take-away I’ve got. I like to write, and I enjoy it when people enjoy what I’ve written. Simple. What else can I say?

 

 

 

 

 


JKHOA 1.6 Midpoint

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The Road goes ever on and on . . .

So, last Friday I gave myself the challenge of writing 500 words a day on this blog every day for two weeks, no rolling on Shabbas. Half way in, what have I learnt so far? Well, for one, I’m taking a weekday off next week because I need a week day of. That’s my reason. What? That day will be Thursday or Friday. Other than that, I had a hell of a time. In both senses.

First: I really did have fun. It was a hoot. Glad I did this. I needed a jump-start. I got out a bunch of brain backwash that was just building up in there like soap scum on the tub. You know how when you need to clean the bathroom, and every time you go in there, you’re like “God, I gotta clean this.” But you don’t. Then one day you get skeeved by the idea of taking a shower or brushing your teeth. And you’re like “Right! This is on!” And you scrub the crap out of that tub, and then you’re like “Ah! I can feel like I’m getting clean again in here.” That’s kind of how my brain feels.

Secondly: Hey feedback! That’s really cool. I’m thankful for all of it. Especially everyone who’s just shown interest in my brain drivel, or pushed me to consider new ideas and ways to expand upon my work. I enjoyed all the conversations I’ve had with folks over the past week. It’s good. I’m not as social as some (most) folks. So that part is good for me. Talk to people, Jess! Most don’t bite.

Number three, all the rest of my other goals-stuffs and things are lining up around this small enterprise. I’m managing my time better. I’m making sure that everything is in place so that I can take care of me, my life, my dog (she got super-walkies the past few days after a few neglectful ones — and she’s the best listener and has some great ideas too. Thanks Molly!). I’m sleeping better. I’m making an effort to eat before 5 pm. I’ve had to do some yoga and walk to work out the back issues, and that also helps my thought processes. Hell, I even cleaned the house. I haven’t been that productive since before the day we don’t speak of.

Number four. I’ve been back to work on my other projects as well. I needed the self-inflicted ass-kicking.  It’s been a tough past half year. And I was getting all anxious and pissy because I wasn’t doing what I apparently need to do, which was get back to work. So I’m sure the people around me appreciate the less pissy part. Besides, if I dump all my excess brain energy here, I’m a lot more mellow IRL. (That’s “In real life”, Mom.)

So yeah, brain juices are flowing. I’m feeling better overall (although I think I have a cold). The people around me aren’t as afraid of me, and I’m feeling cool and groovy with them as well. I’ve enjoyed talking to new folks too. My neglected work is no longer neglected. Molly is also pleased to have her long talkie-walkies again. She’s such a help. And, finally, I have to thank my Mom for giving me this topic to write about over the phone while she was shopping at BJ’s  I was stuck. Thanks Mom Now when are you going to take the challenge with me? Your story needs to happen, too. I think we can manage better together.

Happy blizzard 2016 everyone. Hope you’re someplace warm and cozy with something or someone you love. No you cannot borrow Molly. I don’t care how much you need the touch of another being. You can have the cat though.

* I must say, this is the perfect day for the Master and Commander soundtrack. Why is that nobody ever talks about how awesome that movie is? It’s just like this magical thing only a few people know about and love.


My “About Me”

One year out of college I was literally thanking the Academy. I got up on that stage and dedicated my award to my recently passed father then went back to my life in Philly. I’ve been working every moment since to get back there.

Maybe I needed the life experience to grow as a writer. After all, as Holden Caulfield observed, writing is not a just knowing where to put the commas. I traveled. Spent three years in Costa Rica teaching English and translating. But, perhaps in a “pura vida” backlash, when I decided to come home, I did so with hardened intent.

I left my husband. Even moved in with Gertrude and Claudius for a time. I got a temp job where I froze in a dusty receiving office in a drug-infested North Philly neighborhood. But I finished a new screenplay. A revenge story. And it’s done well.

I’ve got two screenplays in the works right now. I still live in a bug-ridden, third floor walk-up apartment on one of South Philly‘s louder corners. I keep my dog, plants, books, music, movies and a handsome marine about me like insulation. And often think of a story I heard about my man J. Caesar. His dad died when he was young. Though he came from a good family, they weren’t rich. So he was always in debt as well.

Anyway, on his 32nd birthday, he was stationed in some mud hole in Spain, without prospect of even seeing Rome again, and he wept. He wept because Alexander had conquered the world by his age. He contemplated a good Roman end to it all. Twenty years later he had Gaul under his boot and was on his way to the world’s first, and most famous, point of no return by a stream called Rubicon. His life and death would change the world.

I’m not out for conquest and power, nor do I think the history of the world will hinge on my stay here, but I like the story. There’s a point in there somewhere. Alea iacta esto.


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