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Retrospection

            My decision to blog again has much to do with the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  I didn’t go into detail about how that day influenced my life in my early posts, truthfully, I skipped the experience entirely.  Everybody has their own version of that day, and each one carries a unique burden in that experience.  Those experiences should not be trivialized or diminished as so often happens when comparisons are made.  I have held my memory of that day close to my heart, protecting it from cynicism and recrimination.

            I avoided all media exposure on the anniversary.  Instead, I sat outside in the sunshine and read a romance novel, avoidance in a truly self-indulgent fashion.  When I had read the last page and the sun had dropped below the horizon I felt ashamed.  Without my distractions I began to feel that I had desecrated the sanctity of that day, that I had disrespected the memory of the lives that were lost.  Some days later I read a memorial blog that changed my perspective.

           From ‘Ephemera and Pseudo-Events’ by J.N. Nielsen:

                        “An anniversary is an arbitrary thing – the length of a year is utterly arbitrary – but it is natural to want to commemorate a loss, as it is natural to want to celebrate some joyous occasion. … To memorialize an event is to prevent its repetition, the render it singular, although we must relive the trauma in each memorialization.  Failure to memorialize an event means that it will be visited upon us time and again, though we will be spared the retraumatization of the continual consciousness of the event.”

             My experiences of that day have shaped every aspect of my life, but not in a negative way.  I honor the memory of that day by living each subsequent day with deep appreciation in my heart.  When I remember that day I don’t linger on images of destruction or fear, I am overcome by the humility and compassion I felt all around me.  I tremble not with grief, but with awe.  Remembering now feels like a renewal of hope, and hope and shame cannot coexist.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions, philosophy, psychology

 

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True Confession

          When I started ‘Confessions of a Coffee Shop Whore’ I wanted a home for my fiction.  It did not take me long to realize that fiction was not what I needed to write.  In fact, the harder I tried to focus on fiction, the more I became distracted by my reality.  I was not sure how to write about my reality.  I had always been a story-teller and that was not the same as being a writer.

            I had never really identified myself as a writer.  This is an odd concept to explain, so bear with me.  For as long as I can remember, I have entertained myself with absurd little stories.  These stories matured with me, gaining depth and complexity as I grew older and learned more words.  Whatever I learned whether in school or in life invariably found its way into my little fantasy world.  My stories became an embodiment of my education.  My stories helped me make sense of the world.

            I didn’t start writing my stories down until I was eighteen.  I can actually recall that first writing experience.  I don’t remember what I wrote, but I remember quite clearly my state of mind.  I was in despair; violent, self-destructive despair.  I was far away from all that was familiar and alone in an unforgiving and unsympathetic environment.  The back of a duty roster became my confidant. 

On the page I could separate myself.  My problems became obstacles for my characters to overcome.  In my stories I could say what was on my mind without fear or consequence.  Still, I did not consider myself a writer.  I was a sailor who liked to write in her spare time.

My characters became my best friends.  They traveled with me, consoled me and they never pressured me or made me feel ashamed.  People were not nearly as accommodating.  When you are in the military, people and places are temporary and sadly interchangeable.  True connections are few and far between; at least they were for me.

I wrote throughout my time in the Navy, tending toward the dark and sinister corners of human nature, nicely disguised in fantasy or science fiction.  After signing my discharge papers and heading to LA I adopted the sunshine into my narrative, but soon I was distracted by school.  Once again I was processing whatever lessons I learned by writing it out.  I would twist and turn each idea until I could see it from every angle.  I turned those angles into characters, and those characters began to have voices different from my own.  They came to life, independent and complicated, and for the first time, unique.  I was no longer the main character of my stories.  Yet still, I was a student who liked to write in her spare time.

Spare time…such a common and unassuming pair of words, but ah, the illusion they create…  There is no such thing as spare time.  Time may be occupied by a variety of activities, but it is most definitely occupied.  My stories gained life because I was living.  My characters became independent because I became independent.  My mind was active, synapses were firing, connections were being made, and input was producing output.  My time was fully occupied, but still I thought I needed more time.

I thought that shifting into full-time writer status would be a breeze, after all, the creative juices were flowing, I had more ideas than I knew what to do with… if only I didn’t have that test to study for or that chapter to read… if only I had more time to dedicate to writing… if only.  A few months after I was out of school the ideas dried up.  I had plenty of time to write, but I had nothing to write about.  No input, no output.  And if I have nothing to write about, how can I call myself a writer?  This is the spiral I found myself in last year.

I may have been blocked on my fiction, but I did discover something new about my writing.  I discovered my voice again.  Somewhere along the way I stopped needing a character to speak for me.  Suddenly it became more important to speak for myself – to take back ownership of me – to no longer bury my thoughts in plot lines and dialogue.  But that was not how I had envisioned my blog and I didn’t know how to adjust.

When my computer crashed I found it impossible to keep up with the blog.  I had no theme, no continuity, no criteria from which to build a body of work.  I was writing myself into circles and corners.  In retrospect, writing for a self-imposed deadline, and then stressing about it, is rather idiotic.  I was the worst boss I had ever had and I should have known better.  I needed to step back and regroup… but I did not want to admit failure… (what plan am I on now?)

So, back to where I started with this thing.  I am a writer who occasionally works elsewhere in a non-writing capacity.  Not only does this non-writing occupation of my time help put food on the table, it also provides input to keep the output flowing.  Fiction or not, I am writing.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Confessions

 

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The Space Around Anger

A Statement of Personal Self-Concept

One thing that I am not always happy to admit is that I have a lot of anger.  This is not to say that I am an angry person.  In the past, I have been an angry person – I allowed my anger to control my vantage of the world and those who inhabit the world.  It was a familiar filter through which every decision, every perception and every relationship would have to pass through.  I was not a happy person, nor was I a  pleasant person to be around.

These days, I try to pass the world through a different filter – one of optimism.  You see, optimism is the space around anger.

Anger is not a primary emotion.  I learned this through acting.  When you are angry it is in response to something else.  Surprise – say, when someone cuts in front of you on the freeway – leads to fear at the possibility of harm, and then anger at the individual that presented the threat of that harm.  The anger is not really at the individual, but rather the aggressive counter to fear.  Fight or Flight.

Frustration is another good instigator for anger.  For me, ignorance and social injustice are mammoth triggers of frustration.  Mostly because the aforementioned evils serve no real purpose other than as camouflage for the further aforementioned fear.  Become a bully before someone else is given an opportunity to bully you.  When faced with ignorance or social injustice I am faced with two options.

Option One:  Make like the Unibomber, wrapped up in isolation and my own sense of superiority and proceed to destroy all those I deem unworthy.Problems – aside from all illegality murderous,  sociopathic, hypocritical and generally not productive or helpful.

Option Two:  CHOOSE to assume that ignorance is not self-imposed and can quite nicely be swept away with knowledge and/or constructive disapproval.  Social Injustice – well, can be solved with a little active justice – don’t you think.  A big rally is not always necessary, a single person saying, that is not acceptable – and then calmly explaining why it is not acceptable, that can work too, AND ANYONE CAN DO IT.  Problems – takes an awful lot of patience and extremely thick skin.

Option One is a choice made within anger.  Option Two, a choice made from the space around anger.   But how do you find the space around anger?  That is the big question, isn’t it?

Think about a fight with a loved one.  JJ can make me so angry that I see the entire color spectrum behind my eyes, I lose any and all ability to string words into a sentence (that is a BAD thing with me) and I lose motor function beyond banging my head (fist/foot) against a wall.  But the thing about it is… I love the man.  As social creatures we always get angriest with those we love the most, but we still love them.  We forgive them because of that love.  With JJ, whenever I am the most angry – and this is a direct result of my time with the Medical Examiners Office – I think of him as no longer there.  I have no choice in this vision, my grief for those lost in war has become the home for my anger.  Whenever I go down that slippery slope of rage, it is here where I settle.  In that moment where I envision JJ as no longer alive in this world, my anger cannot survive – it is after all, a secondary emotion.

My love, my grief at the loss of the man far outweighs any temporary anger I feel toward a situation.  And in an instant all of the anger I was feeling vanished, replaced by an overwhelming gratitude that he is still in my life, alive – pissed beyond all measure – but breathing.

This works with JJ, my mother, my sisters, my friends…. heck… if you think about it,if I want to stay away from the hypocrisy of the Unibomer (isolation, absurd sense of superiority) – it can work for the entire human race.

The space around anger

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions

 

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A Preface to the Question of Self-Concept

     I have three lap-top computers.  To most people, that is a bit excessive.  Considering how non-computer literate I am, some might wonder how I became that person… well, it all started with a Toshiba, an LCD screen, a highly priced case of very low quality and a road trip.  Somewhere along this road trip, my Toshiba met with tragedy.  A single point of impact, a spiderweb of cracks,  and only a third of a functioning screen later – I bought my Acer Mini-PC.

     The Acer is a neat little computer, friendly – except with anything that involves audio – but generally gets a lot of compliments on its cuteness.  The problem with the Acer:  It is SMALL, which is good when I have it strapped to my back and I am riding my bike, but not so good when I have to  read a textbook online.

     Which brings me to my HP Pavilion 9000, which I bought – used – from someone who didn’t know its value.  This wonderful computer, my dream lap-top in fact,  came Microsoft Vista, which some may know has its problems.  My Norton AntVirus subscription ended taking with it my ability to log onto the internet.  While Windows 7 promises to solve my internet-woes, I cannot log on and download the severely discounted (and about all I can afford) Student Edition.  Sadly, the Acer, in all of its cuteness, does not have a CD-ROM drive.  Sigh.

     I do have a point in telling you all of this sad tale.  You see, with only one out of three PC’s functioning entirely – I have been shuffling files.  I have a lot of files…. I very rarely delete something I have downloaded/ripped/written/critiqued/edited…etc.  While surfing through curiosity of the past, the proverbial light bulb came on.

I am gleefully clapping my hands like  little girl singing “I want to share, I want to share” but before I do so , I must bypass the detailed dissections of Plans B, C and D and just come out and tell you what they were.  Afterall, that is where all of the files came from.

  • (1998-2004ish) — Plan A (some may recall) was Politics by way of the Navy.
  • (2004 – 2006)  —- Plan B – removed me as far as possible from Plan A – The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, CA  http://www.aada.org/home/home.html
  • (2006-2008½)  – Plan C – Brought me back to school in order to study ‘the sciences’ I had neglected in the past.  Ironically, I had hit a creative wall when writing a science-fiction story – I didn’t understandthe ‘science’ in my story, but I knew it ‘sounded’ good – sorry, the ‘Because I said so…’ defense does not fly with the scifi. 

The next leap does require a little explaining as there were several factors involved.

  1. The right side of my brain was feeling abandoned.
  2. Individuals with the misguided belief that ‘science’ was superior to ‘art’
  3. A general accepted belief that ability in one meant inability in the other
  4. Tutoring https://missfionna.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/when-does-it-start/
  5. ‘Science’ professionals at the VA Hospital insisting that the answer to all of my problems would be the addition of another medication
  • (2008½- late 2009) –Plan D – alternated between two  equally valid and interesting paths,
  1. The use of Acting Techniques in therapeutic use when treating PTSD
  2. A supplementary education program combining academic studies in a comprehensive, context based forum. (how’s that for a pitch-phrase???)  Basically, a conversation that explains how everything fits together. 

Luckily, both these areas could benefit from a single foundation.  I began a degree in Psychology. 

     Which brings me to 2010 where I am venturing into Plan E, which consists of no real plan other than to just keep going with whatever comes along – and above all, FINISH SOMETHING.

Wow, after all that I sure hope my ‘sharing time’ is worth it….  I’ll let you be the judge of that.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2010 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions

 

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Seen and Not Heard

    I have always been a bit of a talker, even as a child.  I admit that, as a child, I was a bit of an attention hound, and just enjoyed having an adults attention- you know, defiantly snubbing my nose at the  ‘children should be seen and not heard’ philosophy.

     Now, I am no longer a child, and no longer an attention hound (well, not as much of one anyway) but have come up against the philosophy of ‘women should only speak when spoken to’ when ‘the men’ are speaking. 

 Well, forget that!

     At first I noticed that when I found myself the only woman in a small group of men, that the men would talk amongst themselves without including me.  I did not want to be the center of attention, but I did like being included.  Yet, when I speak up, the men of the group all stop, look at me, and then continue on as though I had not said a word.

What is up with that?

     I challenge all of the men who are reading this to pay attention the next time they find themselves in this situation, when you meet your ‘boys’ somewhere and you are with your girlfriend or wife, do you include her in the conversation?

     I told JJ about this, he didn’t believe me – he thought I just wanted to be the center of attention – but then he found himself  being ‘one of the boys’ in a conversation and his friend’s wife was standing on the sidelines.  She spoke up and , yep, you guessed it.  They stopped the conversation, looked at her for a moment. and then continued on as though she was not there.  

A moment of insight for JJ.

     You women out there, don’t think that you are the victims in this type of behavior.  Women do it to men as well.  It does not matter the subject of conversation, when in a group conversation, ALL members of that group should be acknowledged, and if they speak, their voice should be given equal opportunity to be heard.

How are we going to break down gender wall if we insist on filling in the cracks?

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2010 in Confessions

 

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Reparative Repartee (Part 3)

 
 
 

  

September 2009

 

     As I have chosen to postpone the dissection of Plan’s B, C, and D, I find myself hesitant and ‘cautious’ in my conclusion on this matter.  So I think it best to give credit where credit is due.  This three-part disclaimer was inspired by Collin Raye.  I usually keep my writing nondenominational … nothing causes offense as quickly as religion.   I hope that the contextual reference and resulting imagery will find a common thread for all belief systems.  

The Song:

What if Jesus  

Comes Back Like That  

The Lyrics:

Nobody says life is fair
we’ve all got a cross to bear
but when it get’s a little hard to care
just think about Him hanging there

   

  

The cross I bear is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I have decided that this diagnosis is not sufficient reason for me to stop caring.  I made a conscious decision to not become desensitized to what I witnessed – no matter how  painful or horrifying – and I have made a conscious decision to not be defined by trauma, but rather by the insights I have gained from observation and reflection.     

Three  years ago I had a daily intake of seven different prescription medications – none of which were much help.   

Two years ago I began to eliminate them, one at a time.  

Today, I am medication free and walk the fine line between mind over matter. 

 At times my emotional reactions and opinions are stronger or more passionate than expected and are misread as aggression, anger or hostility.   

This is rarely the case.   

Thus endeth the disclaimer.    

         

 
 
 

  

Pleasant Harbour, Arizona

 

   

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2010 in Confessions

 

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Reparative Repartee (part 2)

     The small-minded element of human population will always seek an excuse for their smallness.  It is unfortunate fact that innocent bystanders are damaged by this quest.  This is the price of societal evolution, if there was no need for change, there would be no fight for that change to occur.  History is filled with the tragedy of innocents suffering at the hands of the narrow-minded.  Boiled down to basics the story goes as follows:

  • Person A has the power and wishes to keep it
  • Person B is oppressed
  • Person A goes too far
  • Person B gains a sense of self-worth
  • Person A denies the worth of Person B
  • Person B tells Person A to take a hike

While the details may differ, the formula remains consistent.  At various times in life we are both Person A and Person B, I challenge anyone to disagree.

    I can vouch for myself that I have occupied both roles and found neither to be satisfying.  Therefore, the foundation for Plan E is to play a new role.   Person C.

  • Person C does not oppress nor are they oppressed
  • Person C owns their self-worth
  • Person C promotes the intrinsic value of others

I can anticipate at least three responses to Person C:

  1. Cool… have at.
  2. Idealistic little twit
  3. Egotistical snot

Responses 2 and 3 are equal in their popularity, they can both be dismissed after answering the following questions (which I ask myself daily):

  • Are you being honest with yourself and those affected?
  • Have you provided context and evidence?
  • Are your motivations honorable?
  • Are you seeking approval?
  • Have you asked questions?
  • Have you invited discussion?
  • Have you invited honesty?
  • Are you trying to make yourself happy or someone else?
  • Who are you?  Have you represented yourself as someone/something different?
  • What makes you think you are special?  Who do you think you are?
  • Are you qualified?
  • Are you satisfied with ‘struggling’ or ‘aspiring’?
  • Are you playing it safe?
  • Are you holding back?
  • Do you feel apologetic?
  • Do you feel ashamed?
  • Do you feel like a fraud?

The most elusive of the responses, response number 1, I have heard only a handful of times.  In those moments I am comfortable to be me.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2010 in Confessions

 

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