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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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Observations

So, one of my favorite high school memories……

……occurred during lunch, while I was waiting for my fifth period class to start.

The class was Spanish I and, if I recall correctly, I was either reviewing or finishing up some homework that was due that day.  Most likely the latter – I wasn’t exactly the most-on-top-of-it student.  I was a junior and more interested in writing my stories or doodling horses in the margins of my notebook than anything else.  [1]

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed my Spanish class and would write quotes of the day on the chalk board – sometimes in Spanish, sometimes not – with proper attribution.  I just…..wasn’t that much of a dedicated student.

Maybe ten minutes before the bell rang to end the lunch hour, a girl walked up to me.  I don’t remember her name, only that she was blonde, wore a long, black dress, that she was probably a sophomore and that we shared the same Spanish class.  What was I wearing?  Jeans, a T-shirt, sweater and sneakers.  [2]

It was with some curiosity that I watched the Girl in the Black Dress approach.  We weren’t friends, barely even friendly acquaintances, so I wondered what she wanted.

It didn’t take long for me to find out.

Suffice to say, I was subjected to a list of things that made me (in her eyes) undesirable – I was boring, no one liked me, I was ugly and on and on.  You know – the usual sort of thing one does to establish dominance in the pecking order of high school society.

I didn’t know exactly what to do, other than listen – it was kind of a shock to be disrupted from my classwork and be subjected to that.  Her parting shot was cruel, more than what she’d actually said up to that point.  I’m not going to write what it was, because that’s not really the point of this story.

After she’d left, I turned my notebook to clean page and began to list all the things that I was interested in.  I filled two pages and was still coming up with things.  I looked at those pages and thought, ‘If I’m interested in that many topics, then I’m interesting.’

Something to that effect, anyway.

I don’t remember if I cried.  I do remember being upset and discombobulated.  Writing that list helped to center and ground me.  When my teacher arrived to open up the classroom, I was fine.  I had already chosen a quote for the day, but due to that encounter, I decided to change it to a quote from Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). [3]

Sidebar – In that film, Young Sherlock is challenged by a classmate (Dudley) to find a missing trophy using his wits and deductive reasoning. As the bell chimes out the last few seconds of the deadline, Dudley makes an assumption that Young Sherlock ought to give up, since he had not found the trophy.

To which Young Sherlock replied, “Never assume anything”, marched over to a shelf, picked up a vase and, with the final chime ringing, drops it to the floor. The vase shatters and the missing trophy is revealed.

“Never assume anything” became that day’s quote for Spanish I.

Class had been going on for about twenty minutes – the teacher was lecturing in Spanish, some of my classmates were either responding to the teacher’s questions in Spanish, passing notes or dozing – when a voice loudly declared,

“Oh. My. God.”

The teacher stopped, bewildered.  The dozing classmates stirred.

The Girl in the Black Dress pointed at the blackboard and asked, “Can I erase that?”

Not quite sure of what was going on and only interested in continuing the lesson, the teacher just nodded.

The Girl in the Black Dress got up, erased the board and on the way back to her desk, shot me the dirtiest look that, to this day, has yet to be matched. [4]

I only smiled.

Message received.

So, why is this one of my favorite memories?  Because I handled a situation in my own way, that kept it between us and did not diminish either one of us.

Which, if you think about it, is pretty cool, no matter what age group.

 

[1] I scraped by enough to graduate.

[2] I hid a lot behind sweaters, T-shirts and jeans back then.

[3] Of course, it would be Sherlock.

[4] She didn’t approach me again.

Note – I don’t know what happened to her after high school.  But I hope that she did well for herself and that, whatever triggered her insecurities that led her to approach me that day, she was able to overcome them.

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So, around this time nine years ago……

……I was preparing to move out of my tiny studio in Long Beach, CA back to my artsy and somewhat trying hometown. [1]  I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect (I mean, really, who is when moving back to a town where everybody knows your name?), but I was willing to be open to it and to accept any opportunities that came my way.

Well, long story short, a lot of shit happened to derail that sense of optimism. [2]

For the last few months, I’ve felt out of place and out of sorts, that I no longer belonged in my hometown for whatever reason.  But while I have no real reason to stay here, I have no real reason to relocate to someplace else.  All other locations I’d considered over the last few years sound and look just as good as any other place.

None of them stand out as being The Place.

As I mentioned to a close friend just a month ago, since I’m already here, I may as well embrace it and do what I need to do, to make myself happy, like pursue my writing and develop new skills for both personal and professional reasons.  Eventually, the reason for me to go (or to stay) will reveal itself to me and I can move forward.

Until then, que sera sera.

It was only recently that I realized I had circled back to where I was, nine years ago.  It seems like a lifetime ago and so much has happened since then.  I am not the person I was nine years ago – I’m a little wiser, a little more cautious in who I let in, a little more reserved.  If a door is shut, I’m content to let it remain so.

I’m also more willing to be open to new experiences and new environments, something I would generally shun, being more of an introvert than a social butterfly.  However, I recognized that growth comes with discomfort, and so I found opportunities to stretch my boundaries, find what was acceptable and what was not.  In the meantime, I was able to find my voice and speak up when my boundaries were not respected.  This did not always go down well and I eventually found out what was true and what was not.

And this is a good thing.

🙂

[1] If you grew up in a small town and find yourself living there again, you’ll understand what I mean.

[2] It’s really boring, if you want to know.  At least, it is now.  Suffice to say, shit happened and I managed to wash it off successfully.

Evening Thoughts (8)

1. I know exactly what I want for myself, both personally and professionally.

2. When you know what you want, settling for less is not an option.

3. Holding true to that seems both simple and easy to do.

4. It is simple, and no, it’s not easy.

5. There will be days when you feel worthless and insecure, unsure and hopeless.

6. You will probably over-think things and give yourself a really bad headache.

7. ^^^ Don’t beat yourself up about it; just breathe, get through it and get active.

8. The thing to remember is that you don’t have control over how things will unfold.

9. ^^^ I know, that’s really annoying.

10. Just have faith, patience and focus on what you can do, like rearranging your room or create a new work of art.

11. ^^^ I know, easier said than done.

12. The alternative is to compromise yourself and your values; in short, to settle for less.

13. Don’t settle. Hold out for better, even if at this moment, you don’t think you deserve it.

14. You deserve it.

Morning Thoughts* (7)

1. I’ve been thinking a lot about the term ‘good old days’.

2. ^^^ As we all know, there’s no such thing – it’s just rose-colored glasses on a period of time that we have no experience or memory of.

3. I’ve also been watching old TV shows on channels like COZITV and Antenna – Emergency, Adam-12, I Dream of Jeannie, Little House on the Prairie, etc

4. ^^^ I’ve often caught myself remembering when I’d originally watched these shows – I was under the age of ten, I had no real responsibilities, no real worries to weigh upon me. I just lived and did my thing and was pretty happy.

5. Then it occurred to me – maybe the ‘good old days’ that everyone keeps talking about are the days of childhood, before responsibility and the need for a paycheck became an overwhelming concern.

6. ^^^ This makes sense to me – that, in varying degrees, we are trying to get back to the ‘good old days’ of when we were free from worry, responsibility and just focused on being who we were and enjoying our lives.

7. So the trick, then, is to try and bring that feeling into our present.

8. ^^^ I know how difficult this can be – I never said it was easy.

9. But maybe re-discover the things that made you happy as a kid – painting, or dance or something – and add that to your life.

10. It might not bring radical change, but it won’t hurt you, either.

11. It might just make you happier and better able to face the challenges of being an adult.

 

* not to be confused with Evening Thoughts. 😉

Evening thoughts (6)

1. I think I need glasses.

2. ^^^ I’m kind of bummed about that, because so far, I’m the only one in the family that hasn’t needed to wear them.

3. ^^^ Seriously, I’ll be the last one in the family to start wearing glasses. I’m the sole holdout

4. So far, reading glasses have helped, especially with working on the computer.

5. ^^^ Although I’m beginning to suspect that using them while writing in longhand is going to be useful, as well.

My reading glasses.
Note the rather large safety pin.
Sigh.

6. If I’m gonna wear glasses, then by golly, I’m gonna embrace the hell out of it.

7. I’ve been wearing the reading glasses that I’d bought when I got cast in The Mousetrap a couple of years ago.

8. It lost a screw the other day, so now it’s being held together by a rather large safety pin.

9. I am resourceful.

Morning Thoughts* (5)

1. Coffee is a food group unto itself. But I’m sure you already knew that.

2. I have the best gym in the world and I don’t even pay fees – in 30 to 45 minutes, I’ve worked out almost all the major muscle groups at once at least two or three times a week. How? I clean horse pens.

3. In ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, there’s a character named Catherine, who advises Francis (Diane Lane) to live spherically. I’m interpreting that to mean “Don’t make yourself small to make other people feel comfortable. That’s not your problem.”

4. Who is Kesyer Soze? A mousy character in The Usual Suspects (1995), obviously. But this can also describe someone who blows the secret to the fucking movie in his acceptance speech.

5. People will experience you differently, but there’s always a constant thread. As Maya Angelou once said, ““I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

6. One of my many goals in life is to just give people something to smile about. There is nothing too small or insignificant to smile about.

7. Naps, the terror of childhood, are actually good things.

8. I’ve compartmentalized my life so well, it would shock you. I’m not kidding – it shocks me, sometimes.

9. Road trips are a must – take them as often as you can, even if it’s an hour or two away.

*as opposed to evening thoughts.

Peaceful day at the bay.

Evening Thoughts (4)

1. Raise your vibe. Everything else will start to fall away or into place.

2. Embrace your inner child. Wear pigtails and put banana stickers on your nose. Have fun. 🙂

3. Be delighted to see the people you care about and love, whether friends or family.

4. Chill out with a horse. Sometimes, the best wisdom comes from the silent presence of a 1200 pound animal.

5. Put a little sparkle into your outings.

6. I am one with the Force, the Force is one with me.

7. Be brave. Be true. Stand. All the rest is darkness. (from IT, by Stephen King)

Evening Thoughts (3)

1. In the last couple of years, I’ve encountered three types of bullies. They all did the same thing – attacked certain aspects of my person that threatened their ideas about who they were and their place in the world. Needless to say, none of these people are in my life.

2. My physical reaction to being bullied, regardless of the kind of bullying, is the same – shortness of breath; panic attacks; weight gain or retention; wearing baggy clothes in order to hide or disappear; severe anxiety; loss of appetite; shrinking into myself; nervy.

3. Given my experience, you will almost never recognize when someone is being bullied. Bullying is not always about broken bones or bruises – a lot of it is gaslighting and manipulation.

4. In the last four months, I’ve lost 20 pounds. My diet did not change; my activity level did not change (walking a mile 3 or 4 times a week; cleaning horse pens). Only one thing changed – I was no longer being bullied and/or harassed.

5. I give far too many chances to too many who don’t deserve a first chance, but once I’m done, you’re out.

6. I am always happy.

7. If I seem anxious or stressed, ask and listen. Really listen, without your ego.

8. Do not fuck with a Pisces. Some fish have razor sharp teeth and they bite hard.

9. My favorite shark is the carcharodon carcharias.

10. My favorite summer movie is JAWS (1975).

11. My most unique skill is remembering conversations verbatim, which is hilarious, because there’s a good portion of my life that I don’t remember.

Evening Thoughts (2)

He waits, he watches.

1. Henry the Gray had a massive brain storm and spent a good amount of time racing around.

2. It’s a good feeling when you realize your most recent bully is more than three decades too late to instill fear in your heart, because you’ve met worse at the age of ten.

3. If you feel that you are ‘accommodating’ me because I’ve got boundaries and I’m insistent that you respect them, then you have no idea what the concept of respect means.

4. From October 31, 2016 through September 23, 2017, I was being bullied, harassed, sexualized, objectified and put into such a deep state of anxiety, that I would have a panic attack before I even walked in the door. This was despite my repeated establishment of what my boundaries were – not even an email worked.

5. Do not ever ask me to place my faith and trust in someone who willfully, actively and deliberately destroyed any reason for me to do so, just because he got his feelings hurt because I stood up for myself.

6. If someone tells me I need therapy one more time, I’ll ask, “Why? Because I’m comfortable talking about it or because you’re uncomfortable hearing about it?”

7. I know who I am.

8. I am a solitary person by nature. I enjoy my company and my thoughts and am quite happy to plot my next Unexpected Adventure on my own. If I am inviting you into my life or am participating in social situations, it’s because I WANT to share things with you and that I CHOOSE to be there, not because I am lonely.

9. There is a worm hole or black hole in my house – five times this evening, I witnessed Henry the Gray exit the garage, cross my room and go into the hall to the rest of the house. I did not once see him do the reverse.

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