because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

On Being Excomunicated

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“sola” by Alessandro Pinna @

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?

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.


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?









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.

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

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.





My Mom Was Hot Stuff

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Mommy & me, circa 1969

My mom is hot stuff in this photograph

She’s pretty and has straight teeth.

She wears pink hoop earrings and floppy hats.

She does cartwheels with the girls who live in the house across the street.

My mother is in nearly all of my earliest childhood memories. She encouraged me to paint, explore calligraphy, and use pipe cleaners to make frogs and ladybugs. She loved when I sang and danced and rode horses and did backflips off the diving board.

When I was sick, my mother brought the black-and-white television into my bedroom along with a little bell, which she told me to ring if I needed anything. On those miserable days, I watched My Three Sons and The Don Ho Show until my mother emerged with green medicine and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup served on a swirly green and blue plastic tray.

One day, I didn’t want to be my mother’s twin anymore.

Pink and yellow were not my colors.

I remember shouting and slamming doors, tears.

I saw my mother throw her hands up, exhausted, not knowing what else to do.

I felt powerful then, driving her to pain and chaos.

Now that I have a teenager in the house, I want to tell my mother, I’m sorry.

Because I see how precious it is, that time when our children are young. And what a gift it is, to let a mother hold on to the little things for another day, another year.

Because it hurts when our children reject our offerings.

Even when I didn’t give her any credit, my mother remained steadfast, guiding me with an invisible hand.

She still does.

I suspect she always will.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Hey mom, from the looks of this photo, you knew how to style your hair. Do you think you could have done something with mine? Seriously. Also, if you still have that hat, can I borrow it? xoxoRASJ

Tell me something about your mother.


On Watching My Millennial Son Not Prepare For Senior Prom

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Last Sunday, I asked my 17-year old son about his upcoming Senior Prom. I knew he’d roughed out some vague plans to go with a group of friends, but I didn’t know about any of the particulars. They were planning to go somewhere for dinner. He didn’t know who would be driving. He might be sleeping over at someone’s house. But he might not.

“Are you aware it’s this Saturday?” I asked. “Did you even order a tux?”

He shrugged his shoulders. I’d interrupted his computer game. He’d been winning and was annoyed by my questions.

No, he hadn’t thought of it.

Neither had he thought about shoes.

A half hour later, we were standing in Men’s Warehouse talking to a short Italian stylist who knew his suits. “Tuxedo specials are over,” he said while sifting through a wall of black jackets. “It makes better sense to buy.” Within minutes, Weggie had selected the perfect ensemble, and one hour later, my son was back in front of his computer, a beautiful black suit, shirt and tie now hanging in his closet.

I considered my son’s utter lack of preparation for prom. This is a kid who preps strenuously for academic exams, who is intentional about nearly every decision he makes. What is the deal with his avoidance? Is it a guy thing, this lack of attention to details? What would have happened had I not intervened?

I thought back to my own school formals of the mid 1980s.

TB and me, Junior Prom, 1984

I went to junior prom with TB, a boy I spent most of middle school trying to get to fall in love with notice me. Lord knows, we spent many afternoons in detention together as a result of misbehaving in French class. Before he moved to Philadelphia, I realized we were always going to be “just friends,” which was good enough for me. I figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

First, let’s establish TB looked awesome in his tux.


Okay, now let’s talk about my dress.

Featured in Seventeen Magazine, my dress was a gauzy, white Gunne Sax for Jessica McClintock that covered me from chin to ankle; it had three layers of crinoline and 10,000 buttons up the back. I was hermetically sealed inside that garment. All I knew was that from the neck down, I was Madonna in that dress.

Sadly, we must address things from the neck up.

A few months prior, I’d butchered my long mane and had not yet figured out quite what to do with what was, tragically, a long brush-cut. Or a lady-mullet. There wasn’t much I could do. Part of the night, I wore a hat.

For Senior Ball, I was slightly better prepared.

First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux.


Now, about my dress.

JMo and me, Senior Prom 1985

Senior year, I toned down my attire and wore a simple dress. But somehow I ended up looking like I’d been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a vat of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Seriously, I had no business wearing pastel yellow. I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but I looked jaundiced. Luckily, people were blinded by my like totally radical Sun-In highlights and my tan, both of which I had been cultivating after school for weeks while ignoring my upcoming Trigonometry final.

I didn’t do a lot of primping for either prom.

I mean, I showered.

I shaved.

I was clean.

I bought a dress and put it on.

(So there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)

I didn’t go to a spa for a salt scrub or have anyone professionally style my hair. (Although looking back, I see that would have been a good thing.) I didn’t think about getting a mani/pedi or having my brows arched.

All I’m saying is that I guess my son gets it from me, his lackadaisical attitude about prom. He’ll probably clip his fingernails and clean his ears, shave and comb his hair. But that’s about it.

I wonder if he’s is nervous about the social stuff, all the expectations associated with prom.

Because truthfully, I do remember suffering a wee bit of mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I wanted the romance of the evening. I wanted my dates to ask me to dance.

I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.

I imagine some things will never change about formal dances: the grown up feeling of getting dressed up and “going out on the town” without one’s parents; the freaky-deaky feeling a girl gets in her stomach as she sees her prom date pull into the driveway; those awkward posed moments where adults hover, taking zillions of photographs from every possible angle; the worry that a zit could erupt at any moment.

Even though the dresses are better, prom is still an awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do, so we hold onto each other and spin in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And hopefully, he will too.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Are all boys lame planners?



On Thunderstorms & Children: Reflections on a Rainy May

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When my son was a wee thing, still wrapped up like a burrito, every time there was a thunderstorm, I carried him outside to the worn wooden bench perched on our front stoop, and, together, we sat and listened to the boomers.

As my burrito grew, he morphed into my l’il Monkey. Whenever we heard thunder or saw that first flick of lightning, we raced to the front door. He’d mastered deadbolts by then, and he turned the knob furiously as if the ice-cream truck were sitting in our driveway. Once outside, we piled on the old bench — my son sat on my lap, holding my hand with a combination of anticipation and fear while I counted: “One-one-thousand, -one-thousand, three-one-thousand…” And when the world shook, we laughed and he begged for another so we waited impatiently for the next thunder-clap to shake our world.

For years we watched the skies darken, the clouds quicken, felt the air grow heavy on our skin. We listened to water slap our sidewalk angrily, and we both came to see how it works: how storms can be furious and yet temporary. He learned that even the scariest storms pass.

I know children who are terrified of thunder and lightning – kids who put their hands over their ears and cry or hide, but my son was raised up on late May storms: flashes of light and all that racket.

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d taking a shower.

{The way my Monkey was starting to take showers.}

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d needed to fill up the oceans.

{The way my Monkey was starting to have responsibilities.}

Maybe it’s because he imagined G-d stomping around looking for something He had misplaced.

{The way Monkey misplaced things and got all stompy and frustrated.}

Maybe it’s because he liked talking about G-d and trying to relate to Him.

“G-d makes rain. And rain makes the world grow, Mommy!” l’il Monkey told me as he stared at the yellow lilies, thirsty for a drink.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that with each summer storm, my summer-son was getting “growed up” too.

One May, I saw my son needed a new raincoat and boots for puddle stomping.

“I don’t need a coat. Or boots,” Monkey said as a matter-of-fact.

And he ran out into the downpour.


Now I’m not saying it’s smart to go outside and run around on a lawn during an electrical storm, I’m just saying that we did. Okay?

We made up goofy dances, sang ridiculous songs, and chased each other around the yard in our bare feet until we were mud-spattered and drenched.

In no time at all, my little burrito will have graduated high school and turn 18.

We live in an apartment with a less inviting front stoop, so we don’t do the thunderstorm thing anymore.

He doesn’t need require as much from me: a meal, a bed, a place to plug in his computer and charge his phone.

Soon, he won’t even need me to provide these things.

While natural, these changes come at me, pelt me, like hard rain on my skin.

One day, when I am an old woman and I hear the distant clatter of thunder, I will remember tiny yellow rain coats and tiny yellow rain-boots. I may not remember much else, but I will remember those little moments — perhaps as one long blurry moment — when the world turned chocolate pudding and everything was positively puddle wonderful.

What do you remember about thunderstorms? What little moments do you cherish?

If you’d like to see my art, check out my SHOP or LIKE me on Facebook.

Letting Go of Love: On Grief and Dirty-Faced Boys

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When I was in elementary school, I liked a boy whose face was always a little dirty, a boy who wore corduroys that were always patched at the knees. Somehow, I sensed he had less than I did in this life, and for some inexplicable reason I felt a connection to him.

One afternoon, this boy and I held hands during a roller-skating party in our school gymnasium. It was wonderful, the way he whipped me around the room. His fingers tightly gripping mine, I felt alive, chosen.

I started bringing candy to him, assorted caramels rolled in colorful wrappers, and he happily took my plastic baggy filled with sweets, eating everything hungrily and without much appreciation.

I brought him treats for a long time, until I realized it was the candy he liked, not me.

Apparently, I haven’t learned much since my elementary school days.

Because I did it again.

This one knew how to clean himself up well-enough. He told me that he’d stop smoking cigarettes someday and shared enough secrets to make me feel like I was special. I liked the way he curled around me at night, pulling my body against his, making me feel delicate. I loved watching him sleep, hearing his breath, studying the curve of his face, his perfectly shell-shaped ears.

But nothing was easy. Our conversations were filled with miscommunications, and he was forever hanging up on me when we spoke on the phone.

And yet.

I encouraged him to follow his dreams, helped him with his business, opened my home to him, gave him my heart, my body. Some many offerings.

The point is I see it now, this old pattern, this longing to save someone I like. To make him love me.

I want to say that I’m hopeful that one day I’ll find my person – someone who is willing to accept responsibility for hurtful words, someone who apologizes and makes an attempt to change his future actions, someone who is willing to fight for me rather than with me, someone passionate and affectionate – a partner who possesses all the attributes I dream of and which, at one time, seemed so simple.

Time for me to stop offering up what little sweetness I have left.

Time to love myself and eat all the chocolates.

Ever stayed in a bad relationship for too long? How did you know when it was time to end things?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Letter to My 12th Grade Son, 3 Months Before He Graduates High School

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Dear TechSupport:

You used to shout at your friends before playing Capture The Flag.

“No burying the flag.”

“No jailbreaks.”

“My house. My rules.”

My son, you love rules.

But over the last few years, you’ve had to accept that man-made laws are not perfect.

Because people are imperfect.

Each night, you watch the news and shake your head.

Now you understand people create laws that can lead to atrocities of human suffering.

Know the question to ask yourself is always: “Would I want this to happen to me or someone I love?” Know also that the answer to this question connects you to the deepest place in your heart as well as all of humanity.

I remember you, slim and long, holding a saber in your hand. Moving with a sense of purpose, you lunged and parried and reposted. This sport – a maddening game of mental chess — requires patience, athleticism, chivalry and grace.

Know that you possess all of these qualities.

That you are able-bodied and strong.

Even if you never fence again.

Know the question to ask yourself is always: “How can I use my strength to help others?”

I’ve always known you’re wicked smart. I’m not bragging. I’m just quoting from the comments that your teachers have made over the years.

Student is a critical thinker.

Student asks important questions.

Student is a leader.

Though I’m forever encouraging you to go with your gut, you’re a scientist, analyzing situations from every viewpoint and trying to make the best, most rational decision you can.

Dude, I don’t understand how you got 100% on the Integrated Algebra Regents.

I mean, I know that you did it.

But you know how I feel about numbers.

To me, numbers are the enemy of words.

But you see magic in numbers.

You love the number 8 because it’s even.

Because it is divisible by 2 and 4, both of which are even numbers.

Because the number is made of two circles. And circles have no sides.

And infinite sides.

If you tip over the number 8, it becomes a pair of glasses.

And the symbol for infinity.

You love how infinity goes on forever.

Like Pi.

Believe me, I’m over the moon that you’ve made friends with numbers.

Please, just don’t become obsessed with 100.

Know that greatness is not about always having the right answer or pleasing others. That greatness is about asking important questions and doing what is right and good, even if you have to stand alone.

{That said, it’s okay to let other people hide the flag in a non-obvious location during Capture the Flag. Seriously, Bubba. It’s a game. Not the time to take a stand. Pick your battles.}

At the end of this academic year, you’ll be heading off to summer camp.

And then to college.

I’m already grieving losing you.

I’ve hardly had time to make sense of it.

I think it started the day I realized you are taller than I am.

Of course, I’m here for you.

But you’ve gotten quieter, less interested in sharing your words with me.

You hand me a Rubik’s cube and tell me to mess it up.

Your fingers touch mine for a nanosecond before you pull away.

I get it.

You’re expending your energy elsewhere these days.

These days you’re probably thinking about that girl and how she uses a green headband to keep her hair off her neck.

Stuff like that.

How did we get here?

Wasn’t I just cleaning up spilled Goldfish crackers and taking care of ouchies.

Explain to me how we got here, my number loving son.

And tell me that I did a good enough job.

That all the formulas worked.

You’ve been on this earth for 6430 days.

I’m paying close attention because I get it now.

This time won’t last forever.

I want you to know that you, my son, have been my greatest teacher.

But can I tell you just one thing?

People don’t ring the doorbell asking you to hang out because they want to see me. They don’t cheer your name when you walk into a room because they like the shirt you’re wearing. They do these things because you are that guy: the one who builds people up and makes them feel accepted and loved. You make weird card games fun.

You win with humility and lose with grace.

Except when it comes to Capture The Flag.

Dude, that game is your undoing. Cut people some slack. Seriously.

I know that’s more than one thing.

Do me a favor and cut me some slack, too.



Do You Know Your Love Language?

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Back in elementary school, when we were essentially forced to make Valentine’s cards for each other, we never discussed love or compassion. We were taught that a good partner should intuitively know what would give the other person happiness.

We were definitely not instructed to ask for what we want.

Ideally, we are supposed to to put aside own egos and give what we know would bring our partners joy.

Even if we aren’t totally into it.

That kind of sacrifice is called love.

Compassionate love is hard to sustain.

But without it, relationships fail.

No doubt, cutting out construction paper valentines was fun, especially when paired with a cupcake and a nappy.

But it taught us the wrong message.

Store bought cards signed without any sentiment aren’t enough, even if paired with a handful of Hershey’s kisses.

If we really want to show someone that they are important to us, we need to think about what they want and be mindful to do so in a way that they will most appreciate.

Several years ago, I read Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. In his book, Chapman asserts that it’s rare for two people to speak the same primary love language, and we become confused when our partner does not understand what we are communicating.
Chapman reiterates that the euphoric high of the honeymoon stage wears off after about two years, and while we still try to express love, the message may not be received because we often speak to our partner in what is, essentially, a foreign language.
In order to have a successful relationship, Chapman says it’s necessary to understand one’s own primary love language as well as that of our partner. And he asserts we must attempt to express love in his or her primary love language.

What Are These Love Languages?

Chapman identifies the five primary ways that people show love:

  1. Words of Affirmation:  You feel most cared for when your partner is open and expressive in telling you how wonderful they think you are and how much they appreciate you. Basically, you need people to remind you that their world is a better place because you are in it.
  2. Acts of Service:
    If your partner offering to watch the kids so you can do what you’d like to do gets your heart racing, then this is your love language.
  3. Physical Touch:
    If you like to hug, kiss and touch a lot, and/or if naked time with your partner makes you feel most loved, this is your primary love language.
  4. Quality Time:
    This love language is about being together, fully present and engaged in the activity at hand, no matter how trivial.
  5. Gifts:
    If you feel most appreciated when your partner takes the time to buy you something you’d really like, this is your primary love language.

When I took Chapman’s test in the back of the book, I learned that my primary love language is “Physical Touch” followed by “Quality Time.”

Chapman asserts that we have to figure out what our partners really want based on their primary love language. When our unique needs are met, he asserts, it feels like “our love tanks” have been topped off; however, if our needs aren’t being satisfied, we will feel drained and experience health problems.

What am I doing this Valentine’s Day?

1) Treating myself to a pedicure. 2) Celebrating my son’s 16 & 1/2 birthday; and 3) Remaining hopeful that one day I’ll find someone who understands me… and my love language.

Which language is your love primary language? What about your partner? What would you most love to receive for Valentine’s Day? Are you willing to do something different this year in the name of love? I’d love to hear from you!

 tweet me @rasjacobson