because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

RACHEL: The Story Behind My Latest Painting

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Last night, I started painting too late.

I was tired.

I tried to rest, but I saw her.

Fully formed.

So I had to get up and, at least, start her.

And then I couldn’t stop.

RACHEL is an 16×20 original featuring acrylic paint, vintage papers, oil pastels, colored pencils and one tiny gemstone right alongside her nose. Signed and ready to hang. Contact me if you’re interested in purchasing this or any of my work.

This is RACHEL.

My entire life, strangers have come up to me and called me Rachel. It happens nearly every day. (Actually, people come up to me constantly and asked me if they know me from somewhere. It happens all the time. People who hang out with me get used to it.)

For the purposes of brevity, let’s just say I understand Rachel. I understand what motivates her, what she needs, her insecurities and shortcomings. Rachel is kind of my alter ego, I guess. When I’m happy, you’ll know it. When I’m mad, you’ll know about that, too.

Consider the Biblical Rachel. To an outside observer, Rachel appeared to have everything in life—physical beauty, all the material things she needed, and the devotion of a loving husband. But Rachel wanted more. She had to have everything she wanted or life was not worth living. She was envious, selfish, peevish, fretful, discontented, and demanding.

I’ll own that I’m not the easiest person to be with in relationship.

I’m not a conventional girl.

I will not demur.

Like Rachel in the Torah, I have my own needs, aspirations and dreams. And while I’m happy to support the man in my life emotionally, I expect the same kind of affirmation, support and validation. I require a lot of affection.

I like how my RACHEL appears rather mermaid-ish, too. That wasn’t intentional, but it comes through loud and clear. It’s a dream of mine to eventually live closer to the ocean, and I crave the sun and the sea.

Truth be told, I often feel like a fish out of water and relate to these mythological creatures who choose to give up their lives in one place to follow the love to another place. Mermaids are known for their passionate singing and are forever blamed for luring men to the shallows, causing sailors to wreck their ships. But why should a woman be blamed for expressing herself? Why don’t folks think less of the men for losing focus and becoming distracted?

My entire life I’ve challenged social norms. People tell me I think too much. For what? A girl? Who would ever say that to a man? I’ve been told to be quiet and just be a go-along girl.

Never again.

My RACHEL is subversive. She causes others to listen and she gets what she wants.

Plus she’s sexy as hell.

What do you see that I’m missing?

 

Just Keep Dancing: Musings From a Misunderstood Girl

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Dancing is when you tear your heart out and rise out of your body to hang suspended between the worlds. ~ Rumi

JUST DANCE is a 16×20 original multimedia piece featuring acrylic paint, vintage papers and stamps, oil pastels, colored pencils and itty-bitty gemstones (on the bodice of her dress). Interested in purchasing this piece? Leave a comment or message me on my CONTACT page.

People who know me well know I dance wherever I go. Because I’m always shaking and shimmying, people think I’m showing off. I’ve been accused of wanting attention.

The truth is I can’t hold still.

Dancing is my oldest coping mechanism. Before there was art or writing, there was dance.

These days, I dance at the gym. All the time.

I can’t help it. Whether I’m in the dance studio, the weight room, or the treadmill, I simply have to move.

Dancing is who I am.

(I may have forgotten about my body for a while, but I’m back in it now. Full force.)

Yesterday, I was talking to a trainer at the gym who told me I exude “amazing positive energy.” He said I appear confident and happy and like I have it all together. Even on Facebook, he said.

“If that’s true,” I said, “how come no one talks to me? Or asks me out?”

“You’re intimidating,” he said.

It’s a terrible irony. Stunning really.

To fill myself up, I dance…but because I feel comfortable in my body, I end up isolated because people see me as unapproachable. Intimidating.

It’s a weird kind of “splitting.” The world does not see me as I truly am. They don’t see me as insecure, or wounded. The world doesn’t see how I’ve been hurt. It’s invisible. It’s always been like this, and I think it’s why I often feel so misunderstood.

As a kid, many of my teachers had low expectations for me. My intellect was neither valued nor appreciated. But I‘m not stupid. I’m smart and ambitious. I have aspirations, and I continue to move in the direction of my dreams.

Learning about the way I am perceived helps me realize I have to work hard to be seen and heard. I suppose this means I’ll spend the rest of my life swirling in circles, squawking out my desires & scribbling out my words in hopes of being better understood.

Where have you been misunderstood?

On Being Excomunicated

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“sola” by Alessandro Pinna @ flickr.com

I am trying to understand disappearance. When a person chooses not to communicate, does it mean that person is busy? Could he be on a vacation overseas? Could it have been something that I said, or did I say nothing when I should have said something?

Because here I am walking around thinking everything is right in the world, that every baby born for the last six months has had ten fingers and ten toes. I thought the rain in the forecast meant the grass was growing, that the chill in the air meant fresh fruit, not the end of something.

When a person chooses not to communicate with you, that person holds all the cards, all the power.

There is little for the excommunicated to do but look at the sky but wonder and try to determine how it could be so blue, cry a little – alone, maybe – in the car, but put on a happy face, as if being forgotten does not hurt like a hundred bee stings, or the bloody scratch from the extended claws of a trusted cat.

Could it be that the person has decided that you are not, in fact, worth the effort – and has left you to figure it out? If that is the case, I am slug-slow at “figgering” and would prefer, like a racehorse with a broken leg, to be put out of my misery more cleanly. In this case without a bullet, but perhaps the words, “In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m already gone.”

How have you dealt with the loss of a friendship?

Becoming Real

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BECOMING REAL is a 16×20 multimedia painting featuring acrylic paint, vintage papers, oil pastels & colored pencils. Reproductions are available by request.

Four years ago, after weaning off a powerful anti-anxiety medication, I had a seizure in my kitchen.

Lying on my back, I stared up at the ceiling, baffled by what was happening to me.

For months, I suffered hundreds of physical and emotional symptoms that kept me locked in a state of constant terror.

No one knew how to help me.

In February of 2014, I flew out to Arizona, to The Meadows of Wickenburg, a rehabilitation facility where I watched shattered people heal…while I remained terribly ill.

No matter what I did, my brain remained scrambled.

I had absolutely no evidence that I’d ever heal.

While in rehab, I spent a lot of time in the art room. I painted a tree and a house and a bird. A boy told me my picture was pretty, so I gave it to him.

Back in Rochester, I kept painting: hearts & animals, monsters & sad-faced girls.

My paintings got bigger and bigger. I created The State of Undress Project and connected with dozens of people, exchanging life stories and forging friendships.

Three years have passed, and I just had my very first art opening. People I’d previously only “known” online showed up and introduce themselves in person. A childhood friend I hadn’t seen in over 30 years drove over an hour to be there. My parents were there, old friends and new, and I felt loved and supported by everyone who was in attendance.

Sitting here this morning, I received payment for a commissioned painting I have not yet painted. People are buying my work. They tell me they like my goofy videos. I have travel plans to look forward to. Work plans. Artist friends who generously answer my newbie questions. Patrons who are actively collecting my paintings, if you can believe it. And yesterday, a new artist friend asked me for advice.

Recently, after completing a whimsical painting of a funny looking critter, my cousin commented that he reminded her of The Velveteen Rabbit, a book I’d many years before. Upon revisiting it, I see what she means. The book offers many lovely themes, but the one that had the most resonance for me is its reminder that It’s Important to be Real.

(Rabbit doesn’t need the garden rabbits to tell him he’s Real, and he doesn’t need the Boy to keep loving him in order to stay that way. Once he recognizes his own Realness, the Rabbit has the confidence to be his own person.)

It sounds like it’s easy, this ‘being real’ business.

But it isn’t.

And I see it now, how I’d fallen off my path.

How I’d stopped creating, stopped loving, stopped trusting the voices that guide me.

How I was surviving but not thriving.

How I was spending my days living the way others wanted me to live.

A way that wasn’t my way.

At all.

How I’d stopped being real.

The Velveteen Rabbit also reminded me to remember the people who have helped me.

(Even after he’s Real and living with the garden rabbits, the Rabbit still comes back to visit the Boy whose love gave him life. He could have easily forgotten the Boy, living in Rabbit-land, but he doesn’t. The Velveteen Rabbit teaches us to never forget the people who made us who we are, even when we’re living in two different worlds.

So I’m thanking all of you: my parents, my family, my friends ~ new and old ~ my patrons, my followers… (Even those of you who have hurt me ~ and you know who you are ~ you taught me something. I may be a slow learner, but I’ve definitely learned from you. Better late than never, eh?

It’s time to stop focusing on the past.

Why? Because it’s happening.

I’m becoming real: a full-time creative who gets to express herself in color and words.

It’s a dream come true.

Tweet me at @rasjacobson and follow me on Facebook at rasjacobson originals.

Confessions of A Summer Girl: In Which Season Do You Shine?

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I’ve always been a summer person.

I sparkle and shimmer and shine in June, July and August and love the heat and the water, from pool or ocean.

How I used to look forward to the summer. Summer camp. Skinny-dipping. Getting a deep dark delicious tan. (In the 1980s we did these things.) A plain girl, I felt prettier in the summer. Transformed, I always fell in love in the summer. I married in the summer. My son was born in the summer.

But now, I feel autumn creeping up on me, wrapping her fingers around my throat.

Yesterday, I was waxing nostalgic for the many wonders of summer, a friend informed me that she actually hates summer. That, in fact, it is her least favorite season. I was shocked. Horrified. How could it be? She explained her story to me, and I understand it — but it is a foreign concept to me. I’d like to hear from others.

In which season do you feel the most alive?

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.