Reaching Catharsis

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courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

Reaching Catharsis by @jcstaff_

While they are sleeping,
I switch off my mind
making thinking stop.
While they are sleeping,
self-hatred flourishes
self-despising glows.
While they are sleeping,
I want to vanish
I wish I could – and
sometimes, it hurts.
While they are sleeping,
purging my sorrows
until emptiness returns;
strange comfort consumes me.
While they are sleeping,
the satisfaction settles me
as cleansing washes over.
Catharsis reached, once more.
Then I can sleep.

F*cking Do Your Homework

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Photo copyright JC Staff

 

Fucking Do Your Homework — by JC Staff

I’m prefacing what I’m about to say with this: I am not perfect.
In fact, I am the furthest from perfect of just about every person I know.
I get parking fines, I am late picking my children up, I lose keys and phones with complete reliability, I forget to pay bills, I leave my clothes on the floor.
I could go on. Yeah. You get the drift.
That said, I read. I read a lot. I read online, too. A lot. I use social media, and I like to make sure, damn sure, my opinions are well-researched.
The world is a fast place. It’s spinning quicker that it seemed to when we were kids.
We are all “swamped”, “snowed under” and “bogged down”; I get it, believe me.
Work, marriage, motherhood – I’m busy, too. But do you know what?
People are getting lazier.
These days, we all have instant access to more information than our grandparents, with their shelves proudly full of Encyclopedia Britannica, could have ever dreamt of.
Our phones are the portal to an infinite amount of detail on any subject we choose.
Google is now actually a verb, as well as a noun.
But some of us, for some reason, unfathomably cannot be bothered.
Some have their opinions on the tip of their tongue, and let them slide instantly out of the tip of their finger onto their smartphone’s surface, without a millisecond’s pause for thought.
There they sit, with a self-righteously satisfied sigh, dusting their hands off “that’s that”-style, having “put someone straight” about something.
No thought given to clarifying what the person had said, or whether they have misinterpreted it, or even if their response to it is actually correct.
Sometimes, it might be worth not even commenting. Yes, you do still have the option to keep your opinions to yourself.
Like when people yell at the TV, but no one on the TV can hear them. That.
It seems on social media, hiding at home where no one can see them, people feel freer to comment on anything and everything, with whatever lack of civility they wish.
Worst of all, some people comment without having read the background, the thread, the hyperlink, or read up on the person they are responding to.
They spend no energy taking time to read around the subject.
Three times this week, strangers replied to me directly on social media in response to things I had written about. Each time, the respondent was snide and evasive.
Smug is not a good look on anyone, seriously.
And guess what?
Each one was coming from an uninformed standpoint.
People. Come on. Do you think you know what you are talking about?
You spout misjudgements, you cause hurt and distress, you often don’t know who you are really talking to, and what their life or career is about.
Frighteningly, you are also planting the seeds of another 5 minutes of hatred in a world that already has more than enough of its noxious vines strangling the human race.
So, I ask you to stop. Stop; think; read. Check the subject out, verify the claims you make.
Be certain about what you are about to type.
Know your game – because that matters.
Do your homework, people.
Fucking do your homework.

A New Kind of Fall

Preface

I only follow politics minimally – it does not interest me.  I never write about political issues and have no experience writing op-ed type pieces.  The following piece is borne out of my sorrow and frustration at the recent weeks’ events in American politics, and my desire to help society escape the oppression that patriarchally-induced misogyny creates.  Addressing patriarchy and misogyny without mentioning a particular current politician, a world leader who embraces and even personifies the two concepts, is challenging, and near on impossible.

 

********

 

As the final days of September 2018 unfolded, fall imminent in the air, it felt like déjà vu.  This was not just about leaves turning.  One year on from the revelations exploding in the international press about Harvey Weinstein and the growing throng of women coming forward with stories of sexual assault and rape at his hands over the decades, followed by their decades of trauma, isolation, mental ill-health and destroyed careers in Hollywood, we seemed on the eve of an instant-replay, of sorts.  As fall approached, the curtains went up on a new horror show surrounding another public disclosure involving another successful woman alleging sexual assault perpetrated by another powerful American white man.  Another revelation which would, in the space of a few days, mobilise the masses and enrage women (and men) around the globe.  Again.

 

Brett Kavanaugh, a man the majority of the world perhaps had not heard of before, was skyrocketed to notoriety when a woman called Dr Christine Blasey Ford, who would become the latest “poster-girl” for speaking out about sexual violence, accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party in the early 1980s.   While she was still a child.  Worth saying here that Brett Kavanaugh’s profession is relevant in this scenario.  You see, Brett Kavanaugh is a judge.  He was nominated this summer by the President of the United States of America (yeah, him) to become a Supreme Court Judge.  So, of all people, he needs to be squeaky clean in terms of his past and his behaviour.  And his attitudes towards sexually violent crimes.  He also needs to be completely honest and trustworthy.  And non-judgemental.  Right?…..

 

Back to the deja-vu, the pattern was the same:

Woman accuses high profile male.

High profile male vehemently denies and publicly decries the claims.

Sides are taken, lines are drawn in the dirt.

Then ensues a frenzied debate of which one is lying – a debate played out the world’s socio-political centre stage, captivating the attention of both mass media and social media for endless days and nights. Everyone has an opinion, people come forward with corroborating accounts, and further allegations emerge.

 

As this is happening, simultaneously the backlash starts.  The people speaking up to defend the woman are barraged with offensive, insulting and sometimes non-permissible comments.  This is especially rife on social media.  Interestingly, there are few complaints about the defenders of the man being ‘trolled’ in the same way.  Dozens of articles appear as everyone and their dog have an oft-polarized viewpoint to share on “what happened” and “what now?”  As if they were all present in the room during the assault the woman speaks of, and have since lived the trauma she has carried.

 

Photographs, often ugly ones, some with facial contortions to show them in the worst light are shared of those involved.  Last October, a steady stream of such images of Harvey Weinstein appeared in my feeds on social media.  As if his face alone is not scary enough.  Now, the face has been replaced by Brett Kavanaugh looking his most conceited, aggressive and arrogant self.  The photos are very powerful and the faces of the two for me, and possibly for other women who have been sexually assaulted, symbolize sexual harm and have a physiological impact linked to the trauma of it.   We feel these photographs in our bodies.  The words in the post/article we can choose to read or not, but the photographs register as we are scrolling through our social media, whether we want them to or not.

 

Re-framing Their Photos

Ultimately, I want to rewire my mind so that when I see a picture of Harvey Weinstein, Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump and whomever will be next on this growing list in the Hall of Fame of sexual predators who are slipping through the net of the law and of society, I will not feel that tension in my stomach, that sick taste in the back of my throat, that cold chill on my forearms while my breathing goes shallow.  Instead I will stand up a little taller, with my shoulders pulled back and smile a little, knowing that men like them will soon have a metaphorical “fall” of their own.

 

So, what can we do?

The helplessness of waking up the morning after Brett Kavanagh was voted into the Supreme court of America is a horrible empty feeling, like a burnt-out shell of a building after a bombing.  It is more essential than ever that we find ways to help us keep the energy up to keep going when all seems truly lost.  What follows is a list of ideas that I find helpful.   They are not rules, they may not even be helpful to you.  If not, please try to create your own.  Your story matters, YOU matter, the future matters.  It doesn’t really matter how we achieve it, but we must find a way to feel hopeful in these times of fear, intimidation and recklessness.

  1. Speak to children – any children, your own, your nieces, your nephews, your friends’ kids. Have the conversations, explain it to them, simplify it for them, help them to understand.  It’s so important that children are part of this conversation if anything is ever going to change.
  2. Support each other. These are such upsetting times, especially for women who have survived sexual trauma, which let’s face it, is really a very large number of us.  Be there for your friends and let them be there for you.
  3. Take breaks; it is easy to feel immersed in the news, it’s everywhere and we want to know what is going on, what is going to happen next, but it can be emotionally flooding. Know when to pull back and watch something non-taxing on TV, pour a glass of wine or paint your nails.  With the news off.
  4. Use your voice; find ways to speak out in conversations with others, do not feel too intimidated to talk about your views. Give others a new perspective to consider.  It’s not “talking politics”, it’s “talking humanity”, and it matters.
  5. Hope: lastly, and probably most importantly, keep the hope. Look at the teenage girl at the bus-stop you are driving past, staring into the screen of her phone.  Look at her as you pass.  And change the future for her.

………She deserves so much better than this, don’t you think?

We Told You…

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We Told You….. by JC Staff

I have my hands pressed over my ears tightly so I cannot hear your vitriol and tripe
Your rebuttals shrink and wither the second they leave your lips, like a three-day-old balloon becoming flaccid when touched
My eyes are shut tightly, your snide, sarcastic jibes, always tinged with aggression, sometimes saturated, will no longer leak into my space, flood my screen, or invade my aura
You have finished pushing your way in to help yourself
To take, to harm, to abuse, to violate – to meet your wants
Satiating your desires at the expense of us all, with no remorse
I have had enough of your voice, and all the others, denying my truths
I am not listening; I am refusing to listen now, your words are like empty envelopes
You are relentless, it’s true
But my tenacity in this quest to silence your power once and for all, is greater than your energy to make me pay attention to your misogynistic drivel
Petulance, you say? Perhaps.
I am stamping my feet now to shake the ground beneath you
If that does not stop you, I can make thunder with my tongue
To silence your patriarchal assertions of entitlement and objectification
You are not justified, you never have been
I will make you hear me in the end
Leave me be; I will turn my back
I will not walk away because you have not won, and you will never win
Remaining fierce with my heels firmly planted, immutable, unshakable
I am going to have the final word.
Because we told you,
Survivors in the millions,
Driven by collective passion
And a bravery unparalleled,
Stood up around the globe;
We held hands and shouted
So now you need to listen
We told you:
Time’s Up.

The Pond

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The Pond – jc staff

Early grey morning
Frosted grass, glistening
Alone in the park’s silence,
While the world is sleeping.
A dormant fountain
In a circular fishpond;
Within its stone-rimmed edge,
A ring of glass-like ice awaits
Untouched, perfectly formed.
Lifting the little girl up high,
Above the frozen surface,
Before thrusting her downwards,
Holding her tiny body, legs rigid,
Puncturing the ice with her shoes.
Shiny black patent Mary-Janes
Splintering the surface,
The sharp sound skittering
Over the cold, damp ground.
Now he raises her up swiftly,
Her laughter is unbridled joy –
Sweet, young breath, hanging
Hazily in the freezing air.
He’s running now,
Around the pond,
Perforating the ice
With her small feet;
A tidy ring of holes,
The child’s footprints,
Their secret artwork,
Created together.
One day, when he’s gone,
She’ll clutch that moment of love
Inside the gap he’s left in her chest,
And watch the ice melting into tears.

Tell Me The Truth

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

 

Tell Me The Truth – by JC Staff

Morning chases night’s moon
I awake, drinking you in again
With trepid uncertainty

Distorting reality is your game
Why do you play with my mind?
I want you to tell me the truth

It hurts when you say one thing,
And in the next moment, another
A weathervane on the roof of “Now”

Others speak to me of your corruption
I cannot keep pace with your lies
I want you to tell me the truth

I turn away. Your trickery lures me back
I keep watching as you transform
Subtle: something there, then gone

Deceit swims in the dark waters around us
Why am I fighting your constant conjuring?
I want you to tell me the truth

Feeling lost between reality and
Your twisted shape of the truth.
I want to escape your poisoned illusions.

How can you control me like you do?
After all, I know the truth:
You are merely
Glass.

The Contest

The Contest

The Contest – J. Staff
Summertime, I’m living at a friend’s house – he has two brothers and his mother loves me like the daughter she always wanted, so I can do no wrong in her eyes. Which means I can party all I like, as long as I’m up in time for work in the morning. My friends and I are ordering our first round of vodka coolers at Corley’s Bar and Grill most nights by 8pm. I am the youngest among our group of friends, also the wildest, and incidentally the only one still underage. Thankfully, it’s never an issue, I know all the door staff and never get asked for ID. If there’s a new bouncer, I sneak round the back as I know all the guys working in the kitchen – convenient, as they can simply let me in the back door.

My girl-gang is an eclectic group, with not much in common apart from a shared penchant for socialising at Corley’s. Cara* is a hairdresser at a trendy salon in the city centre – a classic extrovert and hilariously sarcastic. Angie is her slightly younger sister, quiet, sensible and conservative, she has perfect hair and never gets lipstick on her teeth. Sherrie is personal assistant to the CEO of a big local company and also the oldest, calmest and wisest. She’s a mother hen to the rest of us, frequently tasked with making sure I get home safely when I’m too drunk to make sure myself. The guys in our circle are mostly boys we grew up with or just know from hanging out at the bar. Summer is one big, hot party; these are halcyon days and life is sizzling.

Tonight, we are onto our third cocktail, beginning to lose count and things are descending into the usual comedy, as we contemplate ordering some food, while flirting with the guys in exchange for the next round of shooters. There’s a promotion on at the bar with a giveaway – free t-shirts from one of the liquor companies. Simon, the bar manager announces a contest. I don’t know if we look interested or Simon just “volunteers” us, but suddenly, Cara, Sherrie and I find ourselves on the now-empty dance floor near the bar awaiting further instruction, having unknowingly entered the mystery contest. Angie, shy and sober as usual, hangs back at our table looking amused.

Any potential anxiety is quelled by drinks we’ve consumed; we are blindfolded before the contest is announced. At this point, I begin feeling less intrigued and slightly ambivalent. Young, a tad reckless and rather drunk, I’m in a busy bar now wearing a blindfold. I suddenly feel an anxious wave wash over me as the vulnerability of my circumstances comes into sharp focus for a halting moment….
But there’s a t-shirt at stake here.
Oh, come on. Let’s be honest, I would hastily join in and attack any challenge presented to me with fervour even just to win a handful of jellybeans – the prize is not the pull for me. It is all about the winning, which prevents me from taking off the blindfold and backing out on the spot.

The suspense builds as the music is turned down and everybody gathers near the dance floor, jostling for a good view, where Cara, Sherrie and I are lined up, blindfolded, giggling self-consciously. Damn. There really is no turning back now. Hearing Simon clear his throat to announce the rules, I take a deep breath, stand tall and thrust my shoulders back a little, feigning “confident” to conceal my skyrocketing trepidation.

Our mission: A race.
We will each be handed an empty glass beer bottle and a condom. On Simon’s count of three, we have to open the condom packet, without damaging the contents, and get it safely and securely onto the beer bottle, without tearing it. As fast as we can. Blindfolded.
She who completes the task first, wins.
I feel positive and hopeful, despite having no prior experience of having ever done such a thing before, blindfolded – open a condom packet, and safely roll the condom onto a beer bottle without tearing it, in front of a lively audience, while intoxicated. And seriously, how realistic is that?
But the voice in my head is screaming “You have to win” so loud, I decide it’s worth my best effort.

We wait; tension mounting; and on Simon’s count of three, I feel a surge of adrenaline flood my bloodstream as we are handed our equipment. Like the iconic scene in Chariots of Fire, my senses block out everything as I focus on my goal. In a matter of mere seconds – less than ten and probably nearer to five – as it’s barely begun, it is all over. The contest ends abruptly as a winner is declared and the crowd cheers and whistles: I WON! I am, of course, ecstatic with the victory.
……At first.

Having taken off our blindfolds, I now see Cara and Sherrie standing there staring, open-mouthed, bewildered at my accomplishment, having barely even succeeded in opening their packaging. Despite having consumed several strawberry daiquiris, with shooters in between, I have managed to competently open the package, get the condom out and deftly roll it onto the beer bottle, all without splitting it. All this while blindfolded, with lightening speed and sharp skill. As one might expect, it is my skill level which is now in the spotlight. Feeling my alcohol levels miraculously recede in the moment, I am soberingly aware of what this now looks like to my friends and the rest of the bar patrons, many of them guys we hang out with at Corley’s most nights.
Despite having just essentially portrayed myself as a total sex kitten in front of a whole bar full of people, in reality, I don’t really have any more or less practice at this activity than either of my friends, especially while blindfolded. My victory was purely down to my intent to win, which was driven by the large quantities of adrenaline coursing through my veins as the thrill of competition took over.

Decades later, I will still remember that evening and the ribbing I had to tolerate for many weeks that summer as my disappointed and shown-up friends licked their wounded pride by passing bitchy judgements about my alleged sexual exploits, which no matter how outlandish, my attempts to refute would be futile.  Amazingly, embarrassing as the allegations were, I still look back on that night with a contented smile. Because aside from the fact that the entire bar saw me race two older girls timages (3)o get a condom onto a rigid object with Olympic speed, while blindfolded, the prevailing memory of the Condom-on-a-Beer-Bottle Contest still remains:

I won – and we all know winning rocks.

*Names have graciously been changed to protect identity of those with less speed and dexterity 

 

Skinny Mean Girl

Skinny Mean Girl – by JC Staff

Mean girls hurt, spewing their venom and their predictable ugliness, ever-unavoidably cruel.
Their pace, footsteps ahead, loaded to lash out first with condescending looks, subtle cutting whispers in the shape of tiny, shiny blades to slice deep.
Spat-out remarks fly from their lips, scribbled starkly on gasoline-soaked rags of disparagement.
Jealousy often fuels their intent to draw blood, as they hone in on any scraps of self-worth belonging to those girls who have something they secretly hanker for.

Never was I subject to their boiling cauldrons of hate. Nor have I ever been a mean girl, myself.
I deplore their behaviour, always hoping to offer some consolation to the subjects of their ferocity.
But I had her thoughts once, thoughts of a mean girl, a skinny mean girl, because I was being eaten alive from the inside, and nobody knew.
Or cared.
I was dying.
Silently, they wormed through my being, those mean girl thoughts in my mind. I hid them from view wanting no one to know, because my mean-girl thoughts were shameful.
I was not a mean girl, really. Where did she come from, the ‘mean-girl me’ inside my head?
She was so thin.
Perhaps they called me “skinny bitch” behind my back, when they thought I couldn’t hear.
Perhaps they had mean-girl thoughts about me too? I didn’t care.
They didn’t know I was so weak. Exhausted with the energy it took my withered heart to push blood around my wasted body – a body I utterly despised.
So cold with the chill that clung constantly to my brittle bones, even in hot sunshine, an icy prickle that never went away no matter how many layers of warmth I wore.
Constant exercise causing constant fractures: shins, feet, ribs – bones snapping like dried twigs.
Frail and thin, in child’s sized clothes, with the arms and legs of a diminutive hunger striker, they would stare too long at the unnatural wisp I had become.
Their looks left me feeling more uncomfortable, and the mean girl thoughts grew louder in my mind.
Sometimes when they spoke to me, it was with unconcealed shock, followed by solemn pity which was so easily mistaken for a mournful longing.
Breathlessly, they took in my birdlike limbs, dull pallor, and pleading, desolate eyes.

For you see, food and I were at war back then, days posed the relentless struggle.
I could not eat – could not chew, could not swallow; food was my nemesis, as I awoke to the same relentless conflict with it every morning.
Ironically, my body battled to keep breathing, as I battled back to deprive it of the source of nourishment keeping it alive; it was struggling to get by.
I raced it to the scarce energy which arrived intermittently by way of an apple or some celery, intent on burning away every single calorie with a vengeance before my cells and organs got them first.
Locked in a struggle, the mean-girl thoughts raged, soiling my mind and flooding my tongue.
I held back the dam, desperately trying to replace the mean-girl thoughts with gentle words of conviviality before they reached my breath.
I pictured people who had been unkind to me, overweight teachers I didn’t like, bitchy secretaries who ate too much cake, as I threw up in dark bathrooms, and ran until my body was collapsing.
I thought wicked things about butter clinging to larger frames of sad people with chubby faces.
I wanted to make them more obese, and to feed them all the food I couldn’t eat, food I was afraid to touch in case it swallowed me first.
Such jealous rage I harboured for their freedom when, in reality, they probably didn’t have any either.

They were enemies with those who could eat without guilt or fear. Oh, little did they know.
They were bigger and unhappy; “You don’t need to go to the gym, you’re so skinny” they would say.
“I would look like you if I didn’t!” I thought.
“You’re so lucky, you can eat what you want” they whined. So far from the truth, like a taunt.
“I would love to know what I want to eat, my appetite is dead and long gone,” I wanted to say.

As I slowly began trying to eat again, they mocked me more.
“You look well!” they would say.
“You look fat!” I would hear.
Haunted still, being told I look “well” never feels good, only leaves me feeling more ashamed and unattractive. And it makes my mean girl thoughts return like maggots which decompose my reality.
I want these people to get fatter.
I want them to say they are too busy for the gym when I go every day.
I want them to eat too many cookies because I never even eat a whole one.
And I want them to put on five pounds as I starve and purge a few pounds away.
Because I want to win.
The mean-girl me, she wants to win. Losing makes my mean-girl thoughts meaner.
And I don’t want that.
It’s the war with food and a body I’m never happy with that I detest, not people.
Most of all, I don’t want the mean-girl to live in my mind anymore.
She’s mean to me, too.
She. Needs. To. Go.

Dreaded Dark

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Dreaded Dark – by J. Staff

It’s so dark, engulfing me until I am saturated with a compulsion to shut my eyes tightly.
No light.
Now opening my eyes wide, willing my pupils to drink in any detectable drips of light: I wait.
Nothing.
In that second, crushing dark is winning our game of terror, suffocation its weapon of choice.
Breathe.
I blink hard. Again, harder. I will not be lost to the darkness like a frightened little girl, alone.
Black shifts.
Eyes adjusting – can’t tell if the light seeps in first, or the calm. Maybe they are one in the same?
Silhouettes.
Shapes appearing now, familiarly, just as I remember when there last was light. They are still.
Comfort.
Feeling safer now the shapes are the ones I know. The sinister edge of dark has gone, leaving
a faint precursor of day, which will eventually consume the darkness completely, illuminating
all the corners of my mind and shadowy parts of my soul where malevolent energy thrives.
Once again, leaving it
with nowhere
to hide.

 

 

Laughing Out Loud

Laughing Out Loud – J Staff
Wet with a fresh coat of sarcasm,
Reeking of soured self-hatred,
The words are hurled in haste,
With mockingly snide frivolity.
Incongruent smile
Poisoned remarks
Brimming with bilious venom.
Inwardly-inflicted harm,
Punishment just for being.

On a fleeting gust of flippancy
They land like drips of acid,
Unceremonious punch-lines
At the feet of those close by.
Attempts to appear charmed,
And entertained by my cruelty,
Are transparently feeble.
Responding to the acerbic jibes
Jam-packed with thorny self-loathing,
They laugh with me, a tad too heartily
Courteously masking disingenuity.
Though,
Sometimes their eyes betray them,
Reflecting confusion, sympathy,
Sadness, crushing pity,
Despite their lips now contorted
In the shape of hollow amusement,
Freeing fabricated laughter – after all
They know the quip won’t hurt anyone.
Else.

It is not just spoken shards
Carrying that razor-edged glint.
Written assertions all valiantly wear
The same barbed self-judgements,
Jagged, spiky, ugly, harsh,
Saturated with contrived joviality
Rendering my heart bleeding invisibly,
My self-worth stifling uncried tears.
Pleadingly hoping others will join me
In these spiteful jabs at self.
My smile is twisted in dark ridicule,
Soul tightly clutching the black sludge
Of inner-revilement,
Asking those close to me
To validate my resentment, and
“Laugh Out Loud.”

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