Tag Archives: writing

The Best Words

Words

Words.Words.Words.

Trump must have the best ones — held hostage under Trump Tower —  because I sure don’t got ‘ em. Not lately, anyway. I’ve had angry words. Frustrated words. Major depressive words. Anxious and frightened words. But where are my clear-sighted words? My poetic words? My witty words? The words that come from whatever that place is that I call “me”?

Since the election, words have baffled me. My words are my Voice. They are my way of communicating my experience to the outside world. I feel my anxiety rising and my heart beating faster simply thinking of using my words and my voice. This is who I am, dammit! I’m a writer. I process my experience through writing. So where is my voice? Where are my words?

And it is Him. The Deplorable One. Trump. This Election has been and still is the reliving of a trauma. It really began with the “grab them by the pussy” comment. How could any woman accept this sort of speech, when not a day passes that we can truly feel “secure in our own bodies,” as Michelle Obama described it? For every woman who has ever been ogled, groped, silenced or passed over, victims of unwanted advances, abuse and trauma, that comment shredded old wounds open. Of course, the true horror is that some women argued vehemently in defence of the remark, and even embraced it!

Are they suffering some form of Stockholm Syndrome? A legion of Patty Hearsts?

And now that IT happened, it’s worse. Women scold me daily for my assertiveness, for my apparently blasphemous notion that “women’s rights are human rights” as Hillary Clinton said, or because she said it. But there is another side as well. And that is I’ve rediscovered the value and comfort of speaking and sharing with other women. It’s a sisterhood that I once had, but lost. I lost it to an abusive husband. To someone who reminded me with every action and word that I had no value, and my words and wants were less than worthless: they were laughable. Someone who cut me off from any companionship that might comfort or lift me up. A relationship in which I had no control, no voice.

Staring down a Trump Presidency seems to me like my abuser, my torturer, has become President of everything. I’m right back in those worst moments. And it has shut me down. But realizing that other women felt the same has been a revelation! I am not alone! And these women are struggling right along with me. We can listen to each other. Support each other. Help each other find our hard won voices again. To find our words.

This is why I feel that men, with certain exceptions, cannot possibly understand how I feel this moment. How I have been feeling. If you’re a white, straight, gentile male it will never be the gut punch it is to me. You may hate Trump, disagree with him on everything, and even think he will bring on WW III, Fallout and The Walking Dead all at once, but you must have lived through some sort of abuse to get it as a straight white guy. And even there you have me beat. You are still a man and benefit from status and privilege that brings. One day you may have come home and socked your abusive father. But I don’t know if women are even supposed to do that. It makes us damaged, crazy chicks. And gloating over our shitty ex’s failures just doesn’t feel like something women can do freely or with as much glee as men speak of their “psycho bitch” ex.

That’s how it seems to me. These are my words. I don’t want or need male input on this. My experiences, my feelings, my words do not require your permission, endorsement, approval or comment. These are my words. This is my voice. I’m taking my words back. Writing this piece was scary and hard. This isn’t the sort of thing I eagerly share. Some will say I’m playing the “victim card” or the “woman card.”  And honestly, if you feel that way, you really do have the Trump card now. At least I have my voice. I have my words. These are my experiences. They don’t need your understanding. They just want the right to exist.

I have my words again.

Post script: To my sisters, let’s help each other and find solidarity in each other. Please feel free to contact me through this site (see below), or Facebook Messenger if you are interested in brainstorming and creating with me a group of like-minded women, a sisterhood of support, sharing, of laughter, joy and awesome.

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of things I like and hate! 😊

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It’s All Good

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Pictures from my kitchen porch.

I took Paul McCartney’s advice and got a home in the heart of the country.  It’s been good for the blood pressure, even though most of my life is still in boxes. This is the sort of place where a thing is done in good time if it’s done well. More haste, less speed, I guess. Actually, not even so much haste. Just the haste of the rolling of the seasons. But most often I just sit here on my porch, or in the swing under the willow by the stream, take a walk, look at stars, notice the moon phases, and stare at the goats who live across the stream in front.

Getting here was trying. Molly, my dog of 13 years, died a few weeks before the move. The previous owners had left the house abandoned for three years, and the place and land was full of their stuff and suffering from neglect. Also, my cat ran away the first day. I spent a week and a half walking around, clinking a fork to a can, shouting “WET FOOOOOD!” But one day he just turned up hungry and miserable looking, ready for snuggles, a clean litter box and wet food. Guess he just needed his Mountain Lion merit badge.

Of course, when the first day I’d be alone rolled around, I was the loneliest girl ever. But that afternoon Stan came home with a new friend, which he held up like John Cusack with a boom box.  But, even better, it was a 3 month old Border Collie pup with freckles on her white nose. We called her Abbey Road. And she was just the friend I needed. Border Collies really want to learn! She looks to me constantly for a cue as to what she should do. So, when on my first day alone with her, she learned “sit” it was “challenge accepted” for us both!

It did take some time to bargain with my love for Molly and for Abbey. But I like to think that Molly’s independent, no-nonsense, terrier spirit haunts me like Obi-wan Kenobi’s Force ghost. Maybe showing up sometimes to deliver exposition to Abbey, or to warn me of encroaching “booshit.” Molly was a great one for hunting down and destroying that. And Abbey is my little go-go Padawan. Always eager to stomp through the trees on the hill behind the house, chase the frogs in the pond, herd frisbees, and bark at the goats, of course. She’s also the biggest love-bug. And I’ve had to defend her from multiple kidnapping attempts when we go to Lowe’s, PetSmart and even from visiting friends and family!

Mr. Kitter-kat wasn’t exactly pleased to come home to “Dog 2.0,” but now they’re great friends, and play and cuddle. He has several channels of bird feeders to watch. Wet food. And he can go out on the kitchen porch whenever he wants to dream of his days as a fearsome hunter alone in the woods. He’s a happy man.

Anyhow, after going without hot water for the first few days (which gave new meaning to “icey cold spring water”), and two weeks of having public sewer pipes laid down what can only be called “the lane,” things finally started coming into focus. Stuff is getting done. I can putter. Actually, I put in some major back and elbow grease! More importantly,  I can breathe again. From locked up in an apartment surrounded by noisy people, on a busy street around the corner from a firehouse, while mourning my dog. To long walks, starry skies, noticing how many species of woodpeckers there are, playing with Abbey, and, of course, staring at goats. Cars are so rare on the road up the hill, I watch them go by.

Sure, the house is old, and nothing is straight, but it’s sturdy and good old — like the Parthenon! A few more years and the forest would have overgrown the place. It feels like a happy house to have people to love it again. And each season has a charm and rhythm of its own. Soon, we’ll move from fire rings outside, to the wood-stove inside. And we’ll all gather before it, and say “let it snow.” More importantly, I have a space of my very own where I have many places to sit with my laptop and write. I am home.

Now, I just need the big green door-shaped sign with Gandalf’s mark, so travelling wizards, dwarves and fair folk know to stop for tea or adventures! 

For more pics of Abbey, the farmhouse, and more check out my Instagram! For even more, check out  Stan’s!

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Updates “About Me”

 

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Catching a beautiful sunset.

It has been too long since Molly died, and I’ve moved into a for real house and got a new pup. So to break my long spell I updated my About Me page. What do you think? Any suggestions?

Check it out here.


Good Grief

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Admiral Molly loving life

 

Friday morning, Molly, my dog of thirteen years, died in my arms. Then I just sat there next to her, drank my coffee, and read about Orlando and guns on the interwebz for an hour. A dissociative episode: shock.

I knew it was coming, her death. In the last few weeks I’ve inhabited that inbetween world of weird: the frantic care, fatigue, constant foreboding, and desire to be strong that being with the terminally ill brings. Down to Molly’s doped up desires to do odd things in the middle of the night, it was flashback to the final weeks of my father’s cancer.

I’ve seen enough death to know how odd it is. One moment a living being is before you, and then they’re a stiff, cold shell that needs to be washed and cleaned up so other people can look on the dead and say “oh they look so peaceful.” And as the dead lie there, appearing to sleep, you do stuff like excuse yourself in the way you would talk to a department store mannequin you bumped into. It’s just off. They’re there, but not.

When I worked for a funeral home, I used to have to walk past Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So everyday to get coffee. I learned grief speak like a sick Monty Python parody: passed on, deceased, shuffled off this mortal coil, gone to meet their maker, joined the bleeding choir invisible.

Truth is, no one remembers those first few days after a death. People in grief are halfway to the other side themselves.  Hence all the couched terms and euphemisms. So fragile. The grieving have one foot on the other side. They want to follow the dead into the grave.

It’s not until they realize that life trundles heedlessly on that the depression and anger sets in. How dare people go about their lives as though nothing happened?! Don’t they know what I’ve lost?! Don’t you see I just can’t!?

I had Molly for 13 years. I was checking out her rather plain smooth coat JRT brothers, when this ball of white and ginger fluff tumbled down the stairs. Molly! She Bogarted herself into my heart, like the true independent and stubborn alpha gal she was.

She was my total bestie, excercise partner, fishing cheerleader, vermin killing, begging, spoiled, loving buddy who never let me down once. And this house has never been so empty. The park never so unappealing. The sun never so harsh. My favorite fishing and camping spots…all haunted by the spirit of Molly, unconquerable in death as in life.

I know it’s normal. Malaise and sadness, nausea and emptiness, anger and wroth that would make Achilles blush. All changing places, shuffling, resurfacing. The careless moment in which you call the deceased’s name. Looking for someone who you’ll never again see with mortal eyes.

My advice to folks who know others that are suffering the trauma of grief is “Chill.” Let them have their space. Don’t tell them what to think, believe, or feel. Let them come back to life in their own time, in their own way. Just remind them that you are there. There’s no substitute for being there.

And that’s very much what I tell myself and others who are grieving. Give yourself time to feel the whole mess. Don’t feel as though there is a way you should feel. Own your feelings as they are right now. You may never feel as though the pain will go away, and you may not want it to. And when it does, you will feel guilty. Feel it. Feel all of that. This is life at the marrow of the bone. Recognize it. Name it. Accept it with compassion for yourself, a poor mortal. In time, you’ll be OK with the fact that the pain will dull. But you’re nowhere near that now. Don’t push it. Just be.

It occurs to me that the entire nation has been plunged into a great momento mori yet again. We won’t always be here. But we are here now. Say Yes to all that is good and right to feel and do now. Be mad, be rash, smoke and explode, sell all your clothes… Just remember to hold your loved ones a little dearer, and most importantly, hold onto yourself. I hope, for all of us who are or have or will love and lose (i.e. all of us), that as deep as your pain goes now, that’s as high as your joy will soar…hopefully, again, someday…just not today. Today, just chill. Today, let it be.

In memoriam: Molly, 2003 – 2016

Thank you for teaching me to love all of life even a fraction as much as you did.

-JL


Making Time

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Tock-tick

Pink Floyd are bastards. You’re listening to Dark Side, get all snug and sleepy from Breathe, and then ALL THE CLOCKS IN THE WORLD wake you up for a lecture on wasting time. But they have got it right. You need both. The space to breathe and be, and that little clock in the back of your mind that reminds you time passes.

Clocks, particularly alarm clocks,  were made by monks you know. It was to help them observe the proper prayer for the time of day. So, no matter what their daily business: farming, sleeping, eating, writing, counting money, making beer or wool; the clock made certain that they took the time to greet and witness each part of the day with the proper ritual in worship of God, which was their real job. And then they approached each bit of the day and it’s work in the frame of mind of worship. They went about all this walled off and ignoring the crazy nonsense of the world.

And that’s how it works. That is how you make time. One part ritual, one part work, one part ignoring everything else.

I do a lot of dumb stuff. I do a lot of housework, cleaning, animal tending, bill-paying stuff. But I chose that. It’s the easiest stuff to do, and no one else wants to do it. That’s my in! What I do I get back? Time to think. When I’m walking dogs, cleaning the tub, doing dishes, taking a shower…my body goes into auto-pilot, and I can think. That’s when the knottiest problems get worked out. Not sitting about.

I have considered that this is a form of “mindless” living. But no! The exact the opposite. I shower in the exact same way — same steps and soap, shampoo, razor in the same place every day — so I can shower without missing any bits.  I LOVE my showers. Because the rest is automated, my brain is free! I made a routine, a ritual to make time to work. Coloring is my new favorite time-maker! How wonderful to let the mind wander to color, movement, and some music!

I do it on social media, too! Prentend every comment or response is a little exercise in thoughtful writing. I’m practicing. I also try stuff out. Oh, perhaps I’ll write like Spock with a foul mouth? Maybe Dickens with anachronistic references? I was going through a big laconic phase a short time back. Sometimes I just make stuff up. Little “words of wisdom” I just pulled out of my… brain.  Caption this picture for best effect! This is what I do. It’s free practice. It’s fun. And that’s my “social time.” Oh dear!🤓

But then, it comes Time. The Time to do the real deed of writing. Now, here again, ritual is big. It’s a habit, but it’s also a ritual. I have certain things to hand. Vaporizer, extra fluid, at least two beverages, chapstick, and music. Now I can do that part anywhere. In fact, some of my best stuff I’ve done in bed on my phone. (I have yet to determine the causal correlation there. It may be coincidence. Further research is clearly required.) But, you know what? Nine times outta ten, I gather all of the above at my little antique letter-writing desk here (which must have been made for a child or a young woman because it is the perfect height for me), and I light a tea light under a bust of Shakespeare. I shittest thou not! BUT! (big butt) all I have to do is write until the tea light burns out. I normally lose track and it’s long out before I’m done, but yeah, that’s my timer. If I do that much, I win! I can go back after a break, or not. But yeah, I work one tea candle to Shakespeare at a time. And it’s all I need. It’s just a little measurable moment I have saved up and prepared for myself.

I ignore a lot. I might be worse than the monks in that regard. They did charitable works, I presume. I have no idea what the monks did. I know what’s going on. I read the news in the morning (with the coffee, it’s a ritual). Then I forget it and go about my own business! If I’m talking to you, I really care. “I give you my most precious thing, my Time,” is what Dad used to say.

I generally decide on giving a damn status fairly quickly. I am a hermit. I talk to my animals more than actual people…or digital people. I actually only “talk” in “meat-space” to about three human beings regularly. One is my therapist. So you know, if I get out of my house for you (or let you in) I am already way out of my norm. I need like 24 hrs of Netflix to recover from large get-togethers. 😂

Oh yeah, this wasn’t about what a weirdo I am, guess that happened though. It was about making Time. But that’s part of how I do it. My area of giving a damn is really slim. And the rest is all up in the old noggin there. And in my thought-filled dog walks and showers and tub cleaning. And in the ephemeral pixels I manipulate against mortality. And the scrawl of half a page of scribbled lines…that I put into Evernote, set a timer and tag a goal and a project for…

“Far away, across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spell”

– Time, Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

*note to self: add back-up battery for vaporizer to writing materials to avoid getting up

 


Objects in Mirror

 

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Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

I’m laying at the foot of my bed, where I’ve made camp. I balance the weight of my head on a pillow, but close enough to feel her labored breathing. My best friend is leaving me.

Last week she killed a groundhog and jumped in a river in excitement over a fish I caught. Now her little heart pounds arythmic against my ear. Her swollen belly rises and falls too fast. She struggles for breath and wakes. I dip my hand in water for her to lick.

My father died at home under hospice care. When he decided to refuse treatment, my mother raged in helpless tears. All those years. She didn’t want to accept what he had, that he was finished the fight.

Molly couldn’t tell me to let her go. I had to choose for her. But those eyes that always trusted me and looked to me, those eyes branded on my mind, they asked my permission. If I could never refuse her the last bite of a sandwich, how could I refuse her this? My puppy, my friend of thirteen years, asked me if she might retire from her long, loyal service. I could never deny her anything.

Molly, you saved me from a tarantula. Were my friend when I was friendless. You comforted me when I was sick. And after surgery, you were my physical therapist, making me get out for that walk. My drill sergeant on hikes. Fishing cheerleader and singing partner. We shot the breeze. And when I was down on myself, you were my motivational speaker. You listened when I was sad, and at my lowest point, you gave me reason to live. No matter what, you forced me to enjoy life, if only for you. I live for you, but not nearly so much as you for me.

I will stay here with you, Molly, as long as you want to stay. I’ll hold on to you forever, if that is your wish. My most devoted friend. My funny face that always makes me smile. Little pup. I’ll stay with you until you’re ready to lay down the long burden you bore with inspiring joy. Your precious, life-affirming soul. Always charging headlong into the fray, tenacious as your breed. Courageous heart. My Molly. My baby. My best friend. Thank you.


My Life Down

 

 

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…I shall lie

I’ve been preoccupied with the loss, care and protection of innocence lately. It’s not time the tale were told here, but I’ve found a lot of comfort in spending time with my cousins, and in music. So I thought I’d dedicate this song to all of us.

Morrissey often mourns the loss of innocence and desires to protect it, and the theme informs much of his work, especially with The Smiths. Below is one of my favorites. A lullaby for the child he once was, the innocence he once possessed and lost, but also a wish — fervently expressed — to save a another from the pain he knew. Sung to the jangling chime of guitar with the sonorous cello of his voice.

Listen here.

“The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”

Please don’t cry
For the ghost and the storm outside
Will not invade this sacred shrine
Nor infiltrate your mind
My life down I shall lie
If the bogey-man should try
To play tricks on your sacred mind
To tease, torment, and tantalise
Wavering shadows loom
A piano plays in an empty room
There’ll be blood on the cleaver tonight
And when darknesss lifts and the room is bright
I’ll still be by your side
For you are all that matters
And I’ll love you to till the day I die
There never need be longing in your eyes
As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine
Ceiling shadows shimmy by
And when the wardrobe towers like a beast of prey
There’s sadness in your beautiful eyes
Oh, your untouched, unsoiled, wonderous eyes
My life down I shall lie
Should restless spirits try
To play tricks on your sacred mind
I once had a child, and it saved my life
And I never even asked his name
I just looked into his wondrous eyes
And said: “never never never again”
And all too soon I did return
Just like a moth to a flame
So rattle my bones all over the stones
I’m only a beggar-man whom nobody owns
Oh, see how words as old as sin
Fit me like a glove
I’m here and here I’ll stay
Together we lie, together we pray
There never need be longing in your eyes
As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine
As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine
Mine
Climb up on my knee, sonny boy
Although you’re only three, sonny boy
You’re – you’re mine
And your mother she just never knew
Oh, your mother…
As long… as long… as long
I did my best for her
I did my best for her
As long… as long… as long as… as long
I did my best for her
I did my best for her
Oh…
From The Smiths, The Smiths, 1984
Photo credit: Nelleke Stallings, 2016

Per Ardua ad Astra

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Through struggle, the stars

 

I didn’t write or blog this week. I got a cold, slept and watched TNG on Netflix. I did keep waking up from cold medicine dreams to type ideas in Evernote. When the Dayquil wears off I’ll see if they’re any good.

Today I got a haircut. So I don’t look like Seasons 4-5 Daryl anymore. But it’s rainy and crap and now I’m going to take a nap. I despise unproductive weeks! It’s hard to rest now that I’m well after being sick all winter. I have so much to make up.

But seriously I’m going to take a nap. Then be up all night listening to SPQR by Mary Beard having asthma/panic attacks. Give me a few days. I’m a terminator. I’ll be back.


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.


The Astronomer

 

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do not follow mine

 

An astronomer

tracing

distant bodies

in dark maths

where they fall

and never light

ellipses of brilliance

through obscure orbits

I perceive

and comprehend

 

 

 

 

 

 


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