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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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Isolate

She couldn’t draw in enough breath.

Panic was at the edge of her consciousness – what if she couldn’t get air into her lungs?  It felt as though they had been cut in half, that she had already maximized their capacity.  Then why was she so short of breath?

Voices became a blur of sound.  His voice, however, was distinct, sexualizing her body, targeting her breasts.  She wanted to cry.  Why couldn’t he stop?  Every protest she lodged at him was met with even crueler comments.  So she had given up.  He either did not hear her distress or, if he did, simply didn’t care.

The weight she had lost had crept back.  She lost interest in looking feminine.  Her baggy, over-sized t-shirts were now preferable to the blouses she had once found joy in.  Being invisible seemed safer, somehow.

But she wasn’t.  Because he still saw her as his target.

And the man next to him wasn’t stopping him.  The man next to him was looking at her with desire, not for herself, for her essential humanity, but as an outlet for his own needs.

Can no one see the terror in her?  Are they so used to the first man’s abusive nature that they see nothing wrong with it?

She didn’t know.  Worse, she didn’t know if she could trust them.

Previous installment: Target

Next installment: TBA

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Target

She thought, Am I real?

The hard wood of the chair dug into her ass – it felt as if her bones could reach right through her muscle and skin. The bowl of curry – once steaming hot – had begun to cool, untouched, before her. So she supposed she had to be real, at least for this moment.

He was still talking, the words a dull drone of sound, familiar and repugnant.  Was this really her friend?  She had asked him to stop so many times.  But he didn’t.  Instead, each request had only seemed to spur him on.  She wanted to not be sitting across from him.  Wanted to be home, wanted to be safe.  Feeling trapped.  Unsafe, not seen, not heard.

Targeted.

She pulled herself back into the present, willing her gaze to fall anywhere but on the men at her table.

“…..oops, she heard me,” he was saying to the man next to him.

She could feel her face redden, the muscles tightening into a grimace she knew no one would see.  Could see.  Her lungs felt caught in a vise, the pressure a hard weight on her sternum.  She couldn’t breathe.

Can this just please be over? Should I stay? Should I leave? If I leave, they’ll mock me. If I don’t, this will not. Stop.

She had always felt safe here, before.  It was not her preferred choice of hang-out, but even home could be too much of a good thing.  One needed to get out, to experience life, to interact with new people.  To be in an environment that was not familiar.

She was beginning to regret that decision.  Being solitary only hurt when you wanted love.

Were these people her friends?  Couldn’t they see that something was wrong?  Or was she to blame for his words?

How could she be surrounded by people she knew and still feel so alone?  Would they take his word that he was joking?  Because of course he wasn’t.  She knew.  This knot in her stomach, the rock on her chest, her constant checking for escape routes told her otherwise.  She was his target, he had chosen her, and she didn’t understand why.

But this other feeling.  That one she did understand.

Isolated.

Next installment: Isolate

So, it looks like I skipped the entire month of September…..

……and all I can say is that September must have been a lot busier than I remember.  I looked for a place to live; I went to an orientation to help build my editing business; on the last Monday of that month, I got my book back with notes; and I’m pushing through some walls I’d built around myself.

Can that take up an entire month?  Maybe, but it sure doesn’t seem like it was a lot.

At least, not to me.

October looks to be more of the same – looking for a place to live; working on the notes for my book; push through walls; possibly relocate altogether – but there are some other things to look forward to, as well.

The orientation is now a workshop, where I start taking steps to ensure the success of my editing business.  I’ll learn how to execute a plan (I’ve always got a plan) that will help me to secure new and on-going clients; gain more training as an editor (like writing, it’s always an ongoing education); apply for a business license; and how to advertise my business (which definitely ties into the plan).

I’ve got my work cut out for me and I am more than okay with that.  This is something I’m not only good at, but enjoy.  The written word is still our main form of communication – from web content to fiction to advertising – and there will always be a need for someone who can help polish that to a shine and make it sparkle.

Need an editor?  Hire me.  Unsure of my qualifications or skill level?  Give it a single 5 hour session and see if it works for you.  Still not satisfied?  I can refer you to another editor, if you feel we are not a good match.

For more information about my rates, please contact me here:

wordslingercopy@hotmail.com

 

 

So, history keeps repeating itself……

…….and the theory behind the repetition of events and actions is this – until you learn the lesson, you will continually find yourself inside it.  This is speaking directly to one’s personal life, of course – relationships that don’t work out, jobs that don’t suit, etc.  But until you identify and change one small thing, you will continue to find yourself in those very situations that you rail against and want to break free of.

And it’s not easy – it requires conscious decision making and discipline to carry it through.  This applies to your own life as well as to the collective world at large.  Change is hard, to begin with, but we are constantly changing from the time we are born.  Surely, conscious change can not only be incorporated into one’s life, but embraced as a positive.

I am thinking of bigger issues than relationships, of course, but they are so huge, I’m not sure I could fit it into one blog post.  It could take up several.  And there so many issues to tackle, that I’m even less sure of where to begin.  And change is frightening to a lot of people – so much so, that they’d rather stagnate than make any real positive efforts to experience something that is outside their comfort zone.

And there it is – comfort zones and change don’t mix.  In order to get out of the comfort zone, you have to open up and change – a perspective, a piece of knowledge, a diet.  Regardless of how concrete the action to change is, the end result is a relative unknown.  The unknown can be acceptance or rejection, whether it’s an idea, a person or a philosophy.  It’s not so much the end result that incites fear – it’s the unknown reaction to that result.

From personal decisions to global ones, the unknown result from an act of change (no matter how positive or good that change can be) is fear.  Where do we belong?  Do we belong?  Am I not a part of this world?  What can I do to be relevant to others?  How can I be a better human being in this world?  What can I bring to the table?

It’s questions like that which define us.  It’s how we answer them that will either elevate or condemn us.

Something to think about.

 

“Some people think the future means the end of history.  Well…We haven’t run out of history quite yet.  Your father called the future…the undiscovered country.  People can be very frightened of change.”
Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

So, I’ve been having a difficult time with today’s post…..

…….and I’ve got nine minutes to get this one done. I’ve already started three and put them aside, primarily because I want to give them more thought and make sure I source the content properly.

Yeah, it’s that kind of day.

So, I’m going to dash this one off quickly and I apologize for the lateness of it. I had fairly full day – running errands with a friend, tap dance, trivia and horses took up most of it. Then the contrary blog posts and here I am, nearing midnight and this is the one that’s going to go through.

I finished a painting I’d started two weeks ago – I would have finished it the same day I’d started it, from the initial sketch to the final touches, but I needed a specific color that I neglected to buy and then life and play rehearsals happened and there the time went.

Four minutes left.

I hope all of you had a lovely day.

Best wishes to all of you.

So, I’m re-watching Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)…….

…….starring Diane Lane as writer Frances Mayes. I hadn’t seen it in a long while (like maybe a year? Two years?) and, given the mood I’m in, it seemed like a great idea to pop this in the DVD player. I remember at the time it came out, I’d been invited to go down to Los Angeles to see an original play written and starring some friends of mine. So, I went with a large group in a chartered bus.

Sitting behind me on that bus were two women, significantly older than I, discussing the film and expressing disgust that Frances (Lane) couldn’t be complete until she had a man. I was tempted to turn around in my seat to disagree and explain why. I didn’t, much to my regret, so here I am, writing what would have been my response.

Frances the film character begins the story a happily married woman – or so she believes. As it turns out, she isn’t – her husband leaves her. Her friends, Patti (Sandra Oh) and her partner Grace (Kate Walsh) want to cheer her up by sending her off on a gay tour of Tuscany. They are unable to go due to Patti being pregnant after many attempts.

On this tour, Frances finds a crumbling and charming house that physically resembles her emotional state. It has such a resonating impact on her, that she takes her suitcase and leaves the tour to explore it. The first time she enters the house, she bumps her arm on a water spigot that doesn’t give water when turned on. She will continually ponder that spigot throughout the film, curious about its purpose and also due to the bruise it gave her.

On impulse, Frances buys the house and that simple action changes her life.

Not long after a severe thunder storm, Frances experiences a “What the hell did I just do? What was I thinking?” moment. She confesses to Martini, the Italian real estate agent who sold her the house, that she feels she made a huge error in purchasing the property, that there should be a wedding and a large family in that house, not a single woman running and hiding from her hurt. However, she cannot undo what she had done, so she perseveres and hires a renovation crew, one of whom eventually becomes like a younger brother to her.

As renovations begin and parts of the house is restored, Frances finds herself surrounded by new friends and an almost-family. She prepares huge feasts at a large table where all of them sit, laughing, talking, listening. She has even begun writing again, presumably detailing the events that had occurred. At the end of the renovations, just prior to the workers unveiling a gift to her, Frances discovers that the spigot is dripping. And after Frances meets the real love of her life and just before the film ends, the spigot is gushing water and Frances is standing in the middle of it, laughing.

Why am I focusing on that? Because Frances and the house were connected. Why am I giving you a semi-recap of the film? I wanted to make sure we were all up to speed and on the same page without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Where does my disagreement with the ladies’ disparaging assessment of the film come in?

Right here.

If you are familiar with Carl Jung (and even if you’re not, that’s okay), he expressed the idea that when one dreams of a house, one is dreaming of oneself. His theory about dreams is that everything we dream is an aspect of ourselves. If you dream of a house, each room represents an aspect of your personality, the attic is your higher consciousness and the basement is your subconscious. The condition of the house and the state of the rooms represent your health, either physically or emotionally.

Water is another symbol, of both the subconscious and of life itself. The house is dry, blocked from what is essential in order to survive. Frances herself is also blocked – rather than work on her own book, she reviews and edits the works of other people (1). As she gets to know the house, to make it her own while keeping its charm and character, both begin to come back to life, to feel cared for (2).

When Frances begins writing her own work again, she is freeing herself from her own emotional restraints. In other words, she is coming back to life and the house emphasizes this change in her by releasing water in drips from the old spigot in the wall.

By the end of the film, she and the house are not only home to her best friend Patty (Oh) and her daughter, but are hosts to a wedding. It is at this point that her friend, real estate agent Martini recalls their conversation from earlier in the film

Frances: What are you thinking?
Martini: What do I think?
Frances: Tell me.
Martini: I think you got your wish.
Frances: My wish?
Martini: On that day we looked for the snake, you said there wanted there to be a wedding here. And you said… you wanted there to be a family here.
Frances: You’re right… I got my wish. I got everything I asked for.

She realizes that he is right, that she has everything she wants – her life is full of friends, of love, of finding herself again after a traumatic experience. She lacks for nothing and she has stopped looking for things outside herself because she has found it within – by working on her house, being there for her friends, writing her book, being active in her new community. And here’s another symbol for you to ponder – working on and renovating her ‘new’ old home was a physical manifestation of Frances rebuilding her interior self.

She doesn’t need anyone to complete her because she’s already complete. Whether she understood it or not, Frances Mayes went on a journey to heal herself. By the end of the film, she had arrived back at herself – she became her truest, most authentic self, the same self she was before her hurts, but now older, wiser, stronger. There’s a reason why the true love of her life is given only five minutes of screen time, a handful of lines and is placed at the very end of the film.

His arrival is not important – hers is.

I suppose my disagreement with the two women on the bus boils down to this – their take away from the film was that Frances couldn’t be truly happy unless she had a man. What they didn’t see was that she was already happy, that she had been finding her happiness in herself and her projects and the people around her.

Regardless of the external circumstances, if you have joy in your life, you are complete. The only person who can take that away from you is you.

That is what Frances learned. And that’s why she was full and complete and ready for what life handed her.

tuscany

Recommended:
Under the Tuscan Sun (novel) by Frances Mayes (3)
Under the Tuscan Sun (film)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

******
(1) That is something I’m familiar with – rather than work on my novel or work on my lines for a play I’m in, I’m writing my blog. It’s still writing and being creative, but…. it’s not the same.

(2) Not to anthropomorphize the house, but if you take care of your home, it takes care of you.

(3) The book came out in 1996 and differs from the 2003 film in many ways, but it is fun read and you will get something out of it.

 

So, I’ve been in an Ireland sort of mood…..

…..which is pretty understandable, since I’m planning to visit the Emerald Isle this year. In honor of this adventure, I’ve been watching the only two movies I own set in Ireland (clearly, I need to get more).

One of them is P.S. I Love You (2007), starring Hillary Swank, Gerard Butler and Kathy Bates. This is not a critique or review of the film (although I do have plenty of opinions about it). It’s more of an observation, I suppose, because from the first time I’d seen it when it was released until the last viewing (which was four days ago, in case you’re curious), I had a hard time figuring out what kind of movie it was.

Was it a meditation on grief and loss? A romantic comedy? A tragedy? A drama? A romantic drama-tragedy? What the hell was it? I enjoyed it, for the most part, but I was never really sure about what kind of movie I was watching. I remember, after the movie came out, trying to read the book, probably hoping to get a better handle on it, but no go.

This probably was one of the reasons why I didn’t quite fully embrace the movie.

But then something interesting happened. Last week, on the most recent viewing, at the part where Gerry (Gerard Butler) is narrating his next to last letter to Holly (Hillary Swank) about the day they met, I heard it.

“I’m not worried about you remembering me,” he tells her, “It’s that girl on the road you keep forgetting.”

The girl with artistic fire and passion for something she didn’t know about yet. The one who got buried under the weight of life, responsibilities, marriage and sensibility. The girl who put her dreams on a shelf. She had become apathetic to her own creative nature and buried it with the need for her comfort zone.

That resonated with me, because over the last year, I’ve been fighting that same battle. I’ve been searching for that fire, to find meaning in my own life that serves me and allows me to fulfill my own best potential. If you put yourself second, there is no reason for others to put you first. It’s selfish, in a way, but by putting your needs and your dreams first, you’re better able to support and take care of others.

So, let’s go back to that first meeting with Gerry and Holly – she’s talking about creating art, whatever that may be for her or for him or for anyone. Even if it includes painting socks. Her passion, we learn at the beginning of the film, is designer shoes. By the end of the film, by chance or fate or accident, she has combined her love for designer shoes with her creative nature into a successful marketable business – shoes as wearable art. Of course, this is Hollywood fantasy, but there is truth there and it does happen. We only need to look at JK Rowling and Stephen King to recognize that it is possible.

So it got me thinking, that little bit at the end with Gerry and his next to last letter. He is reminding his wife, whom he loves, about that fire for creating. What passion did I have as a twenty-year old that I’ve forgotten? I still write, still dabble in sketching and painting, still hang with my homies, er, horsies.

The only thing that left was theater. I’d been acting in community theater since the age of three. I quit acting ten years ago because I felt that I had outgrown it and I didn’t need it. I’d performed in three plays in the last six and I felt alive each time I stepped onstage. And I remembered how it felt to be on stage, to command an audience’s attention through my passion, the words I spoke written by playwrights many years or centuries dead.

And now I know how to re-kindle that passion again, that fire. Do I need to pursue it professionally to feel legitimate as an actor? Not at all – I prefer it this way, as an amateur.

As for P.S. I Love You, I still don’t know what kind of movie it’s trying to be, but I guess it doesn’t really matter, in the long run. I got something out of it.

The Irish landscape doesn’t hurt, either. 🙂

And now, a word from Louisa May Alcott……

“We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.”

Louisa May Alcott, author
November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888

So, I’m thinking about pirates…….

…….of the argh! and avast, me mateys! type that roamed the high seas on tall ships. I’m not exactly sure why, because historically speaking, they were not people to trifle with and often left a great swathe of blood behind. Perhaps it’s that sense of adventure that seems to accompany them, the call of the open sea, the wind ruffling through one’s hair as the sun beats down. Human survival against Nature’s unforgiving trials.

Whatever the case, I’m thinking about pirates. Both men and women chose to pursue that life going back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Rather than focus on Hollywood’s sensationalized ideal of pirates, I’m thinking of several factors never fully explored. What drove them to piracy, to eschew convention and respectable society to embark on voyages that did not guarantee safety or security?

Whether it was Anne Bonny or Blackbeard or Ching Shih, they were not born pirates. Was it circumstance and personality that led them to their profession? Money, or lack thereof, that tore them away from their families? Was it survival or a choice freely made? Resentment of not being able to find their true calling due to rigid caste and/or societal rules?

I don’t suppose there’s any one solid answer for the pirates of the past, or those of contemporary times. I suspect that it may be a combination of many things that drive them to it.

Still, I’m thinking about pirates, the ones of yore, the type modeled from and idealized by the Hollywood Dream Factory. Their tall ships fascinate me. I wonder what they thought or dreamed about in the quiet moments on the ocean. Whether they had any regrets about or spared not a thought at all for those whose lives they altered forever.

I’m thinking about pirates. I’m thinking about two very different stories that have not seen the light of day in many years. I’m thinking about how pirates are actually incredibly symbolic metaphors for change, natural, man-made and maybe even supernatural.

I’m thinking about pirates.

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