because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Another Single Sunday Night as a Singleton

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BIRD BY BIRD is an original acrylic painting featuring vintage papers, color pencils, oil pastels & real shark’s teeth. In her book of the same title, author Anne Lamott explains how, in grade school, her younger brother found himself in a state of panic, unable to to begin a complicated report on birds (assigned some months before) that was due the next day. Lamott overheard her father, a professional writer, advise his son to begin ‘bird by bird’—an approach which has wider applicability. As a person who becomes easily overwhelmed, I’ve try to remember that any difficult task can be made more manageable if broken down into bite-sized chunks. Right now, I need this reminder most of all.

• • •

It’s Sunday night, and I was just stood up.

Again.

It’s embarrassing, continually putting yourself out there and getting kicked in the gut.

I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do: I’ve paid my bills, done my laundry, gone grocery shopping, painted, cleaned, tried to connect with people.

Everyone seems to have someone to keep them company.

Except me.

I flip on the television and see Groundhog’s Day is on.

I used to think the premise for that movie was clever, and I enjoyed waiting for Bill Murray’s character to finally have that one perfect day.

These days, I recognize the main character’s anguish.

Because having time on your hands without people to share it with is hardly a blessing.

It’s a curse.

What am I doing wrong? Am I making a terrible mistake by staying in Rochester?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Going to Be on SURVIVOR!

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Sorry, I didn’t mean to trick you.

But I am going to be on SURVIVOR.

Eventually.

You know, probably.

Because I tried out to be a contestant on SURVIVOR.

Again.

This time auditions were held just 20 minutes away, right outside of Rochester, New York.

{So, of course, I’m thinking this is mine. Because, seriously, why would CBS come to Rochester to hold a casting call if they weren’t there to get me, right?}

I assume there would be thousands of people camped out, waiting for registration, which was scheduled to begin at 11 AM.

In anticipation of looooong lines, I get up early, eat a healthy breakfast, gather up a the necessary provisions – snacks and water — fill up my gas tank, and make the easy drive to Victor. I assume parking will be difficult, so I wear my sneakers. I’m prepared to go the distance.

You can imagine my surprise when I see the short line of people ahead of me.

Like ridiculously short.

The line at 9:30 AM. Super short.

Pulling into the lot, I learn I’ve arrived early enough to be able to park in the lot adjacent to the filming location. When they count us out, I’m #67, one of my favorite numbers.

{You know, ‘cuz I was born in 1967. Confirmation that the Universe is working for me.}

I go to the back of the line where I meet a couple that had driven in from Little Falls, New York (about four hours away), a pharmacy technician named Mindy, a prison guard named CJ , a flaky millennial who has never seen a single a episode of the show before, and some dude who has tried out about 17 times.

“When I have to go to the bathroom, will you guys save my place?” the bearded millennial asks.

We quickly form an alliance and agree to help each other out.

There isn’t much to tell.

The lines get longer.

By noon, there are probably a thousand people waiting to audition. Maybe more.

I wait 2 and ½ hours before being moved into a garage, where I wait some more. There is a nice breeze and a cardboard cutout of Jeff Probst.

Eventually, I make it inside where I hand in my release waiver, stating I allow CBS to use my likeness on social media – or for whatever purpose they like. I provide my phone number and email address.

After that, we go back outside to another area of the garage and, after another wait, we walk back inside. Some of us stand; some of us sit in blue office chairs.

This is the first moment where I start to think about what I will say. I know I have just ONE minute to make my pitch. There is no panel. Just me and a twenty-something wearing trendy thick black glasses.

This is a summary of what I believe I said. Obviously, I was nowhere near this clear or succinct. I did my best to stand in front of the camera and smile and laugh and act natural.

In August of 1999, I saw a trailer for a new show called SURVIVOR, and I was immediately interested: a show like that was right up my alley – physical competition paired with emotional challenges and a social game? Sign me up.

Then I looked down at my ankles, which were super puffy because I was super pregnant (due to deliver any day), and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to participate for a long time. I promised myself that if the show was still on the air when my kid graduated from high school, I was going to try out again.

So here we are, nearly 18 years later. I’ve never missed an episode and I’m making good on my promise. A lot has happened in my life over the last 4 years. I’ve bounced back after a brain injury, which occurred after I was incorrectly weaned off a prescription medication. There’s more to tell, of course – and you’ll have to call me back to Los Angeles if you want to learn more. Suffice it to say I’m funny, flirty, and fit. As a former teacher, I’m a good communicator, which wins me points with adults and makes me relate easily to a younger generation. As far as I’m concerned, you guys came to Rochester to get me. Here I am, pick me.

Trendy black glasses holds up his hand, indicating I have 5 seconds left.

And I break out into a little dance.

{Cuz, you know, I do that.}

Before I leave, an older gentleman tells me that I’ll only receive a phone call if the producers are interested in bringing me out to Los Angeles.

{So you know, any day.}

What did you do yesterday? Or… what show would you like to be on if you didn’t have real life responsibilities?

XOXO

 

Barn is Burnt Down

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Last night, I was feeling really good about the way my students’ writing is progressing. On my drive home, I noticed the moon hovering in the sky, like a giant apricot. The evening felt ripe and delicious.

I remembered a snippet of verse from the 17th century poet Mizuta Masahide.

the burn is burnt down

now

i can see the moon.

In the elevator on my way up to my apartment, I began to feel it.

My muse, kicking in, nudging me to paint from these bits of inspiration: the moon & the verse.

Over the last 4 years, there have been many losses.

Benozo withdrawal and divorce delivered serious blows resulting in enormous personal losses.

But I see it now.

How, if you just hold on, eventually things begin to change.

My health is returning, and I’m seeing the blessings that come out of the wreckage.

Like this painting stuff.

It’s still miraculous to me, this becoming who I am stuff.

So last night, I was up until 1 AM painting this:

I felt good about her, but I knew she wasn’t finished.

Something was missing.

This morning, when I looked at her, I knew exactly what needed to be done ~ and it is with this new clarity that I added a few extra touches. Do you see the difference?

It feels right, this intuitive way of painting.

These days, I apply what I learn in my painting practice to my life.

And I know this: If I’m feeling stuck, after a short break, the answer will come.

(And isn’t that always the case?)

What lessons have you learned recently?

 

 

 

 

 

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Press Release For My Art Show on 9/16/2017

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Here is the official press release which I’m sending out to anyone and everyone here in Rochester. If anyone has contacts at the New York Times, the LA Times, or the Chicago Tribune, I sure would like to get some national exposure. This is not about selling paintings. It’s about raising awareness about the dangers of psychiatric drugs. So many people are suffering in silence right this very moment, their voices unheard. I’m grateful to be able to use my art as a vehicle to share my story, which is the story for so many of us.

• • •

Reproductions of this piece are available as wall art, on magnets & coasters, as well as porcelain trivet tiles.

ARTIST TO DISPLAY WORKS IN “THE STATE OF UNDRESS” PROJECT AT WHITMAN WORKS COMPANY OPENING SEPTEMBER 16, 2017

Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s Art Represents her Healing Journey

Toward Mental Wellness & the Struggle of Others With Invisible Challenges

 August 1, 2017 – Rochester, NY – Whitman Works Company in Penfield, New York is pleased to present “THE STATE OF UNDRESS PROJECT: THE HEALING OF RASJACOBSON”. The exhibit’s opening will take place September 16th with a reception from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at 1826 Penfield Road, Penfield, NY. This exhibit represents Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s on-going healing journey after becoming disabled as a result of improper treatment and withdrawal from a powerful anti-anxiety medication.

During her illness, Jacobson realized there was a profound disconnection between how she looked and how she felt. While speaking with others who were willing to admit that they, too, were struggling to overcome invisible obstacles of their own, she became interested in the tension between outward appearance and internal reality, creating impressionistic portraits based on the stories people shared.

As a result, Jacobson’s art reflects this duality, and her colorful crowd of characters is enigmatic. Despite her use of a cheerful color palette, her subjects often appear deep in thought, even a little sad.

Jacobson hopes her artwork (and the accompanying non-fiction narratives) will allow people to speak more freely about their own insecurities and invisible disabilities which are, to some degree, present in all of us. She also seeks to educate the public about the dangers associated with psychotropic drugs, like the one she was prescribed.

The artist will be in residence for the opening of the exhibit on September 16, 2017 from 6 PM to 9 PM. The show will continue in the Whitman Works Company Gallery through October 7th. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM. For additional information please visit the gallery shop in person at the address above or online at www.whitmanworks.com.

 

 

My First Gallery Event: THE HEALING of RASJACOBSON

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I’m going to be one of those artists who actually gets some love while I’m still ALIVE!

The opening is set for Saturday, September 16, 2017 between 6-9PM. at Whitman Works Gallery in Penfield, New York.

A small reception will be held, and – if I know me – there will be much weeping and hugging.

My greatest wish is that every person who is currently suffering the debilitating effects of benzodiazepeine withdrawal will see this and continue to hold on with the understanding that, eventually, the suffering ends. It ends. Healing is real, and it is proof that the Universe is truly looking out for each and every one of us.

I’m sharing the formal press release information here, in hopes that you will save the date on your calendars. I hope you will schedule me into your fall plans.

I am truly grateful for your support as I continue to rebuild my life.

•••

Whitman Works Company in Penfield, New York is pleased to present “THE STATE OF UNDRESS: THE HEALING OF RASJACOBSON”. This exhibit represents Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s on-going journey to mental health after becoming disabled as a result of improper treatment and withdrawal from a powerful anti-anxiety medication.

During her illness, Renée realized there was a profound disconnection between how she looked and how she felt. In speaking with others who admitted that they, too, were struggling to overcome invisible obstacles of their own, she became interested in the tension between outward appearance and internal reality, creating impressionistic portraits based on the stories people shared.

Renee’s art reflects the duality between appearance and reality. Her colorful crowd of characters is enigmatic. Despite her use of a cheerful color palette, her subjects often appear to be deep in thought, even a little sad. For the full story, read her bio at http://www.rasjacobson.store.

The artist will be in residence for the opening of the exhibit on September 16, 2017 from 6 PM to 9 PM. The show will continue in the Whitman Works Company Gallery through October 7th.

Regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM. For additional information please visit the gallery shop in person or online.

More information about the paintings is being made available on My Patreon Page where, for a minimum of $1 per month, you can read my entire story, as I write it, and receive special content that no one else can see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting All Our Houses in Order

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Tomorrow, the person formerly known as TechSupport (formerly known as Monkey) will be graduating from high school. For about a week, he’s been furiously packing up his belongings to get ready to go to summer camp again this summer.

Except this time, he’s not just packing for camp.

This time he’s boxing up all this belongings because while he is working as a counselor, his childhood home will be sold to another family. This summer, after he says goodbye to his friends and his campers, he will have only a few days to eat, sleep, shower and do laundry before he has to turn it around and head off to college, six hours away, in another state.

At the same time, his father is renovating a new house. (Like our son, he has to figure out where to put all of his things because his place isn’t ready yet.) I’m not quite settled yet either, having to figure out where my remaining boxes of stuff can live since I don’t have room for them in my apartment.

We are all, each of us, scrambling to put our houses in order, literally shuffling around the physical things we accumulate during our lives. Being scattered all over the place feels terrible because without order, one cannot find peace.

In addition to dealing with the physical stuff, yesterday I had to deal with another mess.

I had to put my big girl panties on and do what is right for me.

It involved long lines and metal detectors, hours of waiting in uncomfortable chairs and piles of paperwork.

It involved telling my truth, which I know means forcing someone else into an uncomfortable reality.

It involved putting up boundaries and getting my psychological house in order, people.

Because without order, there can be no peace.

(i know. it’s about time, right?) 

In 2 Kings 20:1, it is written: “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah, the prophet came to him and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’”

I’m almost on the other side of some very dark days.

For a while there, things were way out of balance.

I lost my purpose, my way, my self.

I almost died, twice.

But I’ve come back with a vengeance to fulfill my purpose on this planet.

I hope my son knows that – just as my parents before me and their parents before them – I have done my absolute best to give him what he needs to put his own house in order, that he may always find a balance between logic and emotion, passion and calm, body and mind. (And if he ever needs a reminder, he can look HERE.)

• • •

And speaking of celebrations: Today marks my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary. I feel fortunate to get to watch these two navigate their ship thru calm and stormy waters.  They live by their own guiding principles, their own sense of order, and they are at peace in the sea of love. Tomorrow, the three of us will smile and cheer as my son, their grandson, graduates with Honors. I’m lucky that my parents continue to show up for me, to sit beside me and support me, even when I make mistakes. (And believe me, I’ve made some doozies over the last 9 months.) I hope you enjoy this video I made for them days before their 50th anniversary, one month before I became sick as a result of the treatment of and the withdrawal from a dangerous anti-anxiety drug I had been prescribed.)

Like my writing? Read more of it on My Patreon Page For $1 month, you can read the first draft of my memoir about what brought me to benzodiazepines, what my life was life while on them, during withdrawal and now. You will also see content that is not available anywhere else.

DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL: The 2nd Chapter of my Memoir on Patreon

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Click HERE to take me to Patreon so I can continue to make cute totes!

Just posted chapter 2 of my memoir on Patreon.com!

Here’s a teaser:

Be neat. Those are my father’s famous words. A child of Depression-era parents, my dad learned not to waste anything. Messes were not well tolerated in our house. Spilled milk? That was a serious offense, absolutely a reason for buckets and sponges and dirty looks and blame.

For $1 each month, you can subscribe to read my continuing story of what brought me to benzodiazepines, including how I felt while I was on them, information about my horrendous 30 month withdrawal, what helped me heal (and what didn’t), and how I’m doing now.

There is other content there, too, that can only be accessed on Patreon!

Readers can ask questions which I’ll try to answer in future chapters. Feel free to offer feedback about the content, and if you notice a grammar error, tell me to fix it! You’ll be doing me a favor. Less to edit later!

 

Check it out!

The Blessing of The Ugly Casserole Dish

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NOTE: Mine was actually much uglier than this. I kinda like this retro thing.

A little nostalgia, if you will indulge me.

I attended a wedding recently after which I was invited back to the family’s home and had the opportunity to see the bride and groom open some of their gifts, and I couldn’t help but remember how, the day after we were married, as my new husband and I were opening our wedding gifts, we noticed someone had given us a used casserole dish. Yellow and chipped, it was actually even a little dirty.

“Who would give us a used dish?!” I ranted.

Then I read the card.

The casserole dish had come from a distant aunt who was in her early 90s at the time, and quite ill. Still, Aunt Bea wanted to send us something. Her husband, whom she had loved dearly, had passed away by then and she was alone. In her beautifully written penmanship, Bea explained that a dear friend had given her (and her new husband) that very casserole dish that I now had before me over fifty years earlier. She apologized about the chips and dings, but pointed out that the dish had seen her family through the good years and the lean years. That casserole dish had fed them through The Great Depression, fed their children and grandchildren. She told me that – while she no longer cooked her own meals – she still cherished the dish, but now she wanted me to have it.

Suddenly, everything changed. I no longer disliked the old, used casserole dish. I actually loved it. From that moment forward, I always put sweet things in it, like apple crisp or blueberry cobbler.

Several years ago, that casserole dish split into two pieces as I carefully washed it in the sink. It was old and fragile. Its time had come. Nevertheless, I wept. Who knew that something that I had thought represented such a thoughtless gesture would become one of my most precious possessions? It was hard to throw away the pieces.

These days, whenever I attend people’s weddings — while I don’t give them something used — I nearly always give the couple a hand-thrown casserole dish, usually one made by a talented, local potter, and I attach a note explaining the story about the casserole dish. I always wish the bride and groom well and hope that — in the very least — they always have a pot to cook in.

It is amazing how one’s perspective can quickly change when presented with the right lens through which to view things. Ugly things can become beautiful; things that seem like curses can be blessings in disguise. Aunt Bea taught me that sometimes my eyes lie. Sometimes people have to go deeper and see with their hearts.

What is something you have unexpectedly come to cherish?

BAGGAGE: First Chapter of my Memoir Posted on Patreon

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Wanna buy this clock? Click the photo to be magically transported to RedBubble.com

I just posted my first chapter, BAGGAGE, on Patreon.

In this piece, I write about early childhood trauma that confused me and made me feel home was not a safe place. I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, and was already inadvertently set on the path toward putting other people’s feelings/needs before my own.

For $1 a month, you will have access to all the chapters that I post.

I’ve posted a PREVIEW chapter for free.

My art is there, too ~ and people who subscribe to different level will receive some cool perks, including recognition on Facebook, coloring book pages, original art, framed prints as well as the opportunity to win prize packs up to $25 in fun WHIMSIGIRL stuff.

Check it out.

 

 

 

 

On Solitary Confinement: A Post-Divorce Update About Apartment Life

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The first night in my apartment building, the upstairs’ neighbor’s toilet clogged and overflowed. Bilgy water rained down from the ceiling, soaking my new bathroom mat. I’m not a squeamish person. I can touch spiders and snakes. I don’t mind getting dirty. But I was completely unprepared for brown water dripping on my head. I didn’t know what to do or who to call.

At the time, I didn’t even own a mop.

That night, I stayed up very late with a dear friend who’d come over to help me unpack. Together, Sara and I furiously unboxed my housewares, strategically placing what few pots and pans we could find all over the bathroom.

After Sara went home, I climbed into bed and wept.

For hours.

The next day, I packed until dinnertime. After I’d washed the dishes, I decided to hang up some artwork. It was early, and, outside my windows, the sky was still light. If I had to guess, I’d say I hung up three paintings.

So maybe 15 whacks with a hammer.

Maybe 20.

The next morning, I found a handwritten note that someone had slid under my door.

“Too loud!!!” the note read in cursive. “Do not make noise after 5PM!!!”

I stewed for a little while, wondering which neighbor had left me the note. Eventually, I tossed the note in the trash and decided to venture out. The wait for the elevator took forever. When the doors opened, I stepped into the lobby area. It’s a formal space, and even after two years, it feels more like a hotel than anywhere I’d ever call home.

The doorman pointed at me. “You’re the new girl everyone is complaining about,” he said. “The loud one.” 

It. Was. Awesome.

(And by awesome, I mean it sucked.)

It took me a year to get brave enough to buy a stereo speaker and actually play some music. Because, seriously, screw them. I’m not going to bed at 8PM.

Since my first day, I’ve received more notes. Apparently, I don’t empty the lint trap in the dryer well enough. And while I enjoy having a diverse group of friends, it seems some folks don’t like “the colored girls” coming round.

Another year has passed, and I’m still rebuilding. Apartment living for me is a lot like solitary confinement. The nature of the work I do (writing and painting) is isolating. I spend a lot of time in other people’s backyards, gardening, helping to decorate their patios. I’m still looking for a house, a community, people with whom to share a heart connection. I have Sara, thank goodness, and my parents, and the reality is that very few people check in on me with any regularity. When I need a ride to the airport, I call a taxi.

What does my life look like now? I get up, shower, make my bed, eat a little breakfast, lunch and dinner. Somewhere in there, I paint, write, do some yoga. I take long walks and learn something new every single day. (Thank goodness for NPR podcasts.) I help one person in benzo withdrawal every day. I clean, do my laundry, and try to connect with another human being in real life.

Weekends are hard.

Click on the blue jar to see this sticker, available at RedBubble!

I spend time going to garage sales in search of abandoned picture frames and Mason jars. I never had a thing for glass before I moved into an apartment, but I especially like the ones with rusty metal lids. I relate to their weatheredness, their fragility.

So here I am. It’s early, and I’ve run thru my entire bag of tricks. I’ve painted and shopped. Walked and cleaned. Visited with friends. Got a carwash. Made dinner.

I don’t cry every night anymore, but I’m still not smiling as much as I’d like.

I’m on mission to find a new home. My son will graduate from high school next Saturday. He’s ready to fly, and I’m so excited for him. Unlike my son, I don’t feel quite ready to launch. I need to do a bit more research, poke around and decide where I want to start the next chapter of my life.

A triangular girl, all I know is that living in a rectangle is not for me.

If you were starting over, where would you go and why? Got any suggestions?