Life Doesn’t Fit in a File Folder
For the last nine years, in lieu of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve intentionally selected a single word to help guide my focus in the upcoming year.
- Between 2014-2016, my word was BREATHE. I was in post-acute benzodiazepine withdrawal, and it was all I could do was hold on. I divorced & moved into an apartment. Everything was scary and different. My only goal during those years was to survive.
- In 2017, my word was HEAL. I painted one piece each day and I’d taken a very part-time job at a local community college helping students with learning challenges. I did whatever I needed to do to support my central nervous system. I did my very first art show where my work was warmly received by the public.
- In 2018, my word was CREATE. I started a website and began to share what I was making with the world in a more intentional kind of way.
- In 2019, my word was GROW. I purged old relationships & made space to let in new people. I began singing again & meeting people within the recovery community. I offered emotional support to people coming thru psychiatric medication injuries.
- In 2020, my word was CLARITY. By the time of the COVID quarantine, I knew that I could handle solitude. I used the varied strategies I learned during withdrawal to help me thru. I realized my strengths and figured out how to marry my interests and skills: writing, art, coaching, organizing and grew my social media platform in an effort to help others. I started writing my memoir.
- In 2021, my word was PURPOSE. I published my memoir & continued to speak about the harm that is occurring to many people who take prescription psychiatric drugs long-term.
- In 2022, my word was EXPAND. I made a conscious effort to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities. I was interviewed on several podcasts, and most recently, Nat Kucko did a story on my healing journey that made it to CBS News here in Rochester.
In 2023, my word of the year is COLLABORATE.
In September 2022, I started Square Dancing on Tuesday nights, and having that to look forward to has been life-altering. The community has been warm and welcoming, and I am enjoying learning a new activity that I can engage in for the rest of my life.
That got me thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve felt a sense of connection to something bigger than myself and, in 2023, I want to do more to foster those feelings of friendship and belonging, not only for myself but for others, too.
To that end, I’m excited to announce that I am collaborating with Dr. Kendra Campbell, a holistic psychiatrist who has started a movement called Free Range Psychiatry. Members of The Free Range Fellowship understand that true healing means discovering and addressing the underlying cause of any disease, and not just attempting to medicate away the symptoms. We understand that mental health symptoms are often related to trauma and psychological issues; hormonal and other medical problems; medication side-effects; gut issues; environmental toxins; vitamin deficiencies and imbalances; food sensitivities; as well as other issues. As a result of this collaboration, I will now be able to confidently connect my clients with benzo-wise prescribers who can help them with their tapers! I’m over the moon to be part of this amazing collective of enlightened souls & even more thrilled to be able to offer art classes as well as other offerings to individuals who are willing to learn to live a new way.
GOALS FOR 2023
Many things are happening behind the scenes that I hope to continue to work on in 2023.
- SCREENPLAY – Most of you know that my memoir is available in paperback, ebook & audiobook formats, but you might not know that with the help of my amazing writing partner, Marty Medina, PSYCHiATRIZED has recently been converted into a screenplay! We are so excited about this. I’m working on the next steps, and I promise to report any and all developments on that front as they become available to me.
- WEBCAST – In 2022, Scott W. Fitzgerald & I started a weekly webcast called Things I Learned This Week. We met on random Fridays over at RocVox Recording Studio to record our thoughts on topics that range from the banal to the sublime. Frankly, we’ve been happily surprised by the amount of positive feedback we’ve received from people, and we plan to collaborate more in the upcoming year.
- FRIENDSHIPS – I’ve worked hard to develop & maintain friendships this year. I’ve been more willing to let go of the people who can’t communicate clearly, aren’t feeding my soul, or just plain don’t show up for me in one way or another. Ending relationships is hard for me, so I’m patting myself on the back for making progress in that area.
- WRITING. Aiming for one blogpost a month. Happy I’m feeling inspired to write again!
- SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS. I’m speaking to medical students & medical professionals to help them to reconsider their current prescription practices & teach them better protocols to help patients who want to de-prescribe from mood-altering medications.
- PERSONAL GROWTH. I’m feeling a desire to do something new in 2023; something that will require me to take a risk and invest time, energy and money on myself. More on that later. Just know I’m excited about this!
- TRAVEL. In 2022, I got to explore a little bit of Wisconsin, Chicago and Florida. This year, I’d like to visit Colorado & Oregon! Friends who live in those places, I’m coming for you!
What are you being intentional about in 2023? I’d love to know!
Wishing you all Health & Happiness in the new year & beyond!
I am glad to say that 2022 has been good for me, both personally and professionally. Once again, I’m truly grateful to everyone who has lifted me up this year. While I always prefer words, I have to admit this is the one time of the year that I actually like doing a little math.
MY YEAR IN NUMBERS
5,000+ • Rough number of my memoir purchased in paperback & ebook. Honestly, I’ve lost count.
86 – Amazon reviews. (If you’ve read my book & have not yet left a review, it would be a gift to me if you’d write one!)
98 – Audiobook downloads
13,229 – Combined followers on all social media outlets
3,658 – People on my mailing list
350 – Unique pieces of artwork created* this year
949 – Unique sales
12 – Private commissions
121 – Formal ZOOM Conversations with People Experiencing Psychiatric Medication Issues • This number may seem small, but over the last 5 years, I’ve had over many hundreds of conversations with people who have been injured by psych drugs. Tens of thousands identify as being personally injured by SSRIs, benzodiazepines & antipsychotic medications. I continue to offer emotional support to people coming thru prescription psychotropic harm, and I will continue to pull back the curtain to reveal what’s actually happening on this front. It’s my mission to spread awareness and to help grow a radical movement of holistic health consciousness. To the individuals with whom I have spoken in 2022, thank you for sharing your stories with me.
45 – In-person art classes taught
39 – ZOOM art classes taught • Classes resume March 1, 2023. Click HERE if you’d like to learn more.
32 – Memoir classes taught
4 – Interviews • Thanks to August McLaughlin at GirlBoner Radio; Jack & Linda Mazur from Once Shattered Podcast, the folks at Lake Affect Magazine; and Natalie Kucko from CBS Local News for the opportunities to share my story with your listeners. To see them all, click HERE.
19 – Best selling image: FOUR-LEGGED LOVE
19 – Shows/Festivals • It was a pleasure to have a robust in-person festival season again! This year I showed at: The Powerhouse (Buffalo), Fairport Canal Days, Lavender Festival, Corn Hill Festival, Sharkey’s, Themata, Jack Craft, Long Acre Farm, Lucky Flea, Purple Painted Lady Festival, Naples Grape Festival, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Plowshares Craft Festival (Syracuse), Radio Social, & Balsam Bagels. I also did my End-of-Year Liquidation Sale virtually via ZOOM.
WINNER WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER
I’ll be Announcing the Winner of my End of Year Free Art Bundle Giveaway on 12/25/2022 at 1:11PM on Facebook. Anyone who purchased anything from me in 2022 is automatically entered to win & additional entries were added when people joined my mailing list, liked, shared or commented on certain posts.
So far there are 994 entries… but there’s still time to enter! Simply go to www.rasjacobson.store and order something. I can guarantee it’s NOT going to get there by Christmas, but you’ll be entered to win right up until 12/25 at 1:10PM EST.
Feel like supporting your friendly neighborhood artist? In 2023, I’m looking to purchase:
- Liquitex Paint ($225 for 60 tubes)
- A Vat of Molding Paste ($30)
- Many Canvases ($600)
- Large sheets of 1/4″ wood panel for a brand new, super secret project ($30 each)
Feel free to send a donation in any amount to me via Venmo at @rasjacobson or via Paypal . And I’m saying thank you in advance as I truly appreciate each & every gift.
Ask and you shall receive, right?
Which accomplishments are you proud of this year? What are your numbers? Am I the only weirdo who keeps track of things like this?
A few night’s ago, right before I went to bed, I thought about how the weather had suddenly changed from bikini season to tree-turn season, and how I haven’t made as much progress as I’d hoped to on my outdoor landscaping project, started back in 2020 during the COVID Quarantine.
“I wish I had three big rocks!” I said aloud before turning over to go to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up and started my daily routine: I made my bed, showered, ate breakfast, laid out all the necessary supplies in anticipation for my first art student of the day.
On that particular morning, I had enough time to go outside to check my mailbox, which is attached to a cluster of several other mailboxes located in front of my next-door neighbor’s house, a short distance down the road.
Freshly showered and wearing only my bathrobe and towel-turban, I’m standing there, barefoot, when I hear the familiar rumble.
For the past month the guys from Greenlight have been in my neighborhood, digging up people’s front lawns so as to install new fiber-optic cable which will ostensibly help to give us faster Internet speeds (as well as give us a choice outside the current near-monopoly held by our current internet provider).
By now, I can anticipate what’s coming: the excavator, the DITCHWITCH drill, the vehicle that holds the enormous spool of blue cable, and several other trucks barrel up the street and stop directly in front of my house, blocking my driveway.
Knowing my client will be arriving a short while later, I walk up the road to have a quick conversation with the head of the crew, who kindly reassures me he will move his gynormous vehicle.
Suddenly, I get an idea.
It can’t hurt to ask, I think.
“Hey,” I say, turning around and calling to the Project Manager, a guy with a thick reddish beard, dark sunglasses and some major muscles. “When you dig, do you ever come across any really big rocks?”
“Big rocks?” the PM asks.
“Like boulders,” I say.
“Boulders?” he asks, shaking his head. “We don’t usually come across those kinds of obstacles in newer neighborhoods.”
I nod and start to back away, careful to hold my robe closed. “Well, if you happen to find any really big rocks, I’d love to have a few for a garden project.”
Back at my house, I continue to think about my unfinished garden project. For months, I’ve considered purchasing a few large rocks from a local landscaper but they were charging hundreds of dollars to have them delivered — and, call me crazy, but I just couldn’t justifying paying exorbitant prices for a slab of fused minerals.
Suddenly, the doorbell rings, and, upon opening the door, I am surprised to see the bearded PM from Greenlight standing there, sunglasses in his huge hand.
“You won’t believe this,” he says. “We just hit a rock. Not quite a boulder, but definitely a big rock.”
I follow the PM outside, the two of us heading toward a pile of dirt on my neighbor’s lawn.
And then I see it.
It’s a rock.
A big one.
Exactly the kind of rock I’ve been hoping for.
Clapping my hands together a little too enthusiastically, I shout: “It’s perfect!” — then add, “Can I have it?”
So PM gathers his crew around and somehow they locate a wheelbarrow (cuz Lord knows I don’t have anything like that in my garage), and it’s game on.
It takes three burly dudes to pick the thing up, which they do — and after depositing it with a loud CLUNK into the old wheelbarrow, they transport it to my backyard, dropping it into the desired spot.
Over the course of the day, the crew come across several additional “big rocks,” which they gladly deposit in my backyard.
“Seriously, this never happens,” the PM insists.
Now, some people might call this a ‘coincidence’ or a ‘stroke of luck’, but I believe in the power of manifestation.
The Law of Attraction knows no bounds — and we really can control a lot by the way we think about ourselves and the world.
The ability to manifest doesn’t happen overnight, but over the last nine years, I have learned to shift my energy, to focus on attracting people who are attracted NOT to the person I used to be, but to the person I am becoming.
These days, I know if I see it and feel it, I will achieve it.
And sometimes, as in the case of those garden rocks, it happens almost immediately.
How do I do this?
– I think clearly about what I want.
– I envision myself getting exactly what I want.
– I write down exactly what I want.
– I say out loud what it is that I want.
– I believe I deserve the thing I want.
– I believe the thing I want is on its way.
Then I practice patience & wait.
And while I may not get everything as quickly as those garden rocks, I receive and acknowledge everything that comes my way with gratitude, no matter how big or how small.
What about you? Got any stories about how YOU are intentionally manifesting your destiny?
As I tap out my Annual Year-in-Review blog-post, I am in quarantine for what feels like the millionth time.
How did this happen?
Well, in late November, I made plans to help someone who claimed to “not have anywhere to go” over her holiday break from college. For those who have read my memoir, you will remember that I benefitted immensely from the kindness of a stranger who took me in when I was at my lowest low, so – in an attempt to “pay it forward, ” I invited this person to temporarily reside with me.
As Julia Roberts said in the film Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Huge.”
This girl showed up to my house with a raging case of COVID, and then, upon realizing she was sick, promptly remembered that she did, in fact, have a place to go: HOME. So she packed up her stuff, leaving me with bedding to wash, a bathroom to disinfect, and a direct exposure to COVID.
Anyway, tomorrow, it’ll be five days since the exposure. According to the latest CDC guidelines, asymptomatic people who have been exposed can self-test after five days, and – given a negative test result, folks can go about their merry way, as long as they continue to mask everywhere they go for the following 10 days.
I feel fine, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a negative result.
• • •
But I digress.
For those of you who have been following me for the last few years, you know I like to do these End-of-Year Reflections during which time I do a little look back. In fact, if you really want to be creepy thorough, you can check out Year in Review 2018, Year-in-Review 2019 and Year-in-Review 2020. While some of the things I reflect upon are pretty subjective, the numbers don’t lie.
I have to say that 2021 has been a surprisingly good year for me. After many years of suffering, I feel like everything suddenly turned on a dime and all of my cosmic debts have been paid. I have been reborn and I am truly grateful to everyone who has lifted me up and helped me to arrive to see this day which I never thought would come. While I always prefer words, I have to admit this is probably the one time of the year that I really like doing a little math.
MY YEAR IN NUMBERS
1 – memoir published
1,000+ – paperbacks sold
1,584 – ebooks downloaded
56 – audiobook downloads
Thanks to my friend Scott W. Fitzgerald at Roc Vox Recording & Production!
59 – Amazon reviews
9,588 – combined followers on all social media outlets
Up 921 followers from last year, I’m hoping to hit 10K followers in 2022!
2,727 – people on my mailing list
365 – unique pieces of artwork created* this year
383 – unique pieces of artwork sold* this year
318 – unique client sales
12 – private commissions
52 – ZOOM art classes taught
Classes resume February 9, 2022. Click HERE if you’d like to learn more.
32 – memoir classes taught
4 – public readings/speaking engagements
Many thanks to Tracie Glazer at the Hillel School in Rochester, NY; Renee McLain at Center of Grace in Manlius, NY; Tricia & Steve Kuntz at Fig Hollow Barn in Palmyra, NY & The Pittsford Community Library.
19 – best selling print: DO EPIC SHIT
9 – shows/festivals in which I participated
What a JOY to have been able to show in person at Fairport Canal Days, Themata, Bishop Kearney, Riveter Festival, Jack Craft, Purple Painted Lady Festival, Crafted and virtually via the JOYfilled Holiday Online Artist Market.
0 – First dates I went on
I had no idea how to do it before COVID, and I’m at even more of a loss now.
Some people make New Year’s Resolutions, but I prefer to select a single word to help guide me.
Between 2014-2017, my word was HEAL.
In 2018, my word was CREATE.
All I wanted to do was make and paint and sell and promote.
In 2019, my word was GROW.
(And I did!)
In 2020, my word was CLARITY.
Then COVID hit & I think many of us are finally starting to see how much we need to do to heal individually & collectively as a nation.
In 2021, my word was PURPOSE, and I truly feel that I stepped into my power in 2021. I know who I am and the reason why I am here on this planet. I’ve found a way to marry together all my interests — my writing and my artwork, my teaching skills & my editor’s eye, my creative spirit and my desire to help people into one incredible platform of goodness. Thanks to John Kissling for helping me to revamp my website!
In 2022, my word is EXPAND.
There are a bunch of things happening behind the scenes that I hope will come to fruition in 2021.
It is my intention to allow myself to move into these new opportunities without fear.
Last year I asked two questions:
- What can I change, realistically, given that COVID restrictions will likely continue for some time & the future is uncertain?
- How can I continue to thrive personally & professionally in this extremely challenging climate & culture.
I think I’ve done a really stinkin’ good job of thriving during these difficult times. I’ve managed to grow my business, maintain friendships, and even meet a few new people, too. I’ve been more willing to immediately let go of the people who can’t communicate clearly, aren’t feeding my soul, or just plain don’t show up for me in one way or another. Ending relationships is very hard for me, so I’m going to pat myself on the back for making progress in that area.
I am curious about how y’all are doing. What has worked for you this year? What has gone to shit? Please share your thoughts with me here, on Facebook, via DM or email. It always helps me to read your words, and – if you post publicly – chance are, your words will help someone else, too.
ONE LAST THING
I’ll be announcing the winner of my FREE ART BUNDLE GIVEAWAY on 1/1/22 LIVE on my Rasjacobson Art FACEBOOK Page at 1:11 PM EST! Anyone who made a purchase in December 2021 is eligible to win, so if you’d like to find out if you’re the lucky winner, be sure you are following me there! (PS: I’ll also announce a few other totally random facts like who made the first purchase of the year and who made the last purchase of the year, weird trivia like that.)
Until then, I’m wishing you all Health & Happiness for the rest of the year!
See you in 2022.
Before I write another word, I want to say thank you.
I could not have made it thru this year without the support from my family, friends, and devoted clients. Without festivals in 2020, it was especially challenging to do business. Nearly all of my sales were to repeat customers — and that truly means the world to me. Thank you for thinking of me this year, for thinking of small businesses, for shopping local. I am truly grateful to each & every one of you. I am wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas & a Happy Healthy New Year.
• • •
LOOKING BACK AT 2020
This past year has been very difficult for everyone. Personally, I’ve felt off-center for most of 2020. Ideologically, I’ve vacillated between thinking humans need to fight this pandemic with everything we’ve got and believing that the planet is sick and tired of us and doing its best to purge itself of us. (I still lean toward the latter.) As a person who was profoundly injured by a pharmaceutical product that was (up until recently) generally considered “safe,” I am ambivalent about this vaccine that has been developed in WarpSpeed. I’ve watched our government unravel under a deeply flawed leader, and I have ached with the realization that 50% of our country embraces his racist vitriol. I’ve leaned into terribly uncomfortable situations and tried to hold oppositional worldviews in the same headspace.
Sometimes I’ve done this well; other times, I’ve failed miserably.
I HAD PLANS, Y’ALL.
At the end of 2019, I was feeling confident & optimistic & planned to acquire new gallery space, participate in more festivals/shows, to network with more people professionally and socially, maybe even allow myself to date again.
I THOUGHT 2020 WAS GOING TO BRING CLARITY.
Unfortunately, the pandemic did not allow me to achieve many of the goals that I set for myself at the end of December last year.
However, I pivoted quickly & created new intellectual & professional challenges for myself.
SO WHAT DID I DO?
Like everyone else, I took my life online.
I TOOK MY MEMOIR WRITING CLASSES ONLINE.
I bought a monthly membership to ZOOM. Being able to continue with the women in my Intro Memoir Writing & my Advanced Memoir Writing Classes provided me with some sense of normalcy. Tuesdays & Thursdays became anchor days, and I looked forward to checking in with everyone, hearing about how everyone was handling the big (and not always pleasant) changes in their lives.
I TOOK MY ART CLASSES ONLINE.
After two failed attempts, I created a functional overhead camera setup and I started teaching art classes online, too.
When I ran out of acrylic paint in early April, I started playing with watercolors, showing up every day for nearly three months to paint LIVE on Facebook. As it turned out, a bunch of people joined me to paint in real time every day — and LOTS of people tuned into to watch at their leisure because they found watching me paint relaxing and entertaining. I ran monthly contests, sending free prints to people who created art that moved me the most.
I rounded out 2020 teaching two individual art classes each day & offering group classes once a month. I learned how to create successful Facebook Events, and I plan to do more of this in 2021.
This year, in addition to selling my work via my website, I started selling my work LIVE via Facebook and ZOOM. Much gratitude there to my friend Tricia Campbell for helping me to facilitate a successful holiday season. I was surprised by how much actually sold, especially before Black Friday. I will definitely do more of this in 2021, for Valentine’s Day…and I have a super cool, very fun idea percolating! More on that in 2021.
I PLUGGED IN TO COMMUNITY.
Once I figured out that things were going to be okay for me financially, I worked on creating some kind of social life for myself.
In April 2020, when we were all locked down, I set up a Facebook Group for people from my high school. We had several meetings where a bunch of us checked in & caught up. My friend Kim Colby Luber and I co-hosted an interactive game for members of my high school graduating class of 1985 to play together; we played a few other games, and then a few other members from the class took over, which I appreciated. The group is still there, and I know that if necessary, it wouldn’t take much to resurrect activity there.
I feebly attended a few online exercise groups and checked in with a local divorce group via ZOOM even less frequently. After spending five hours a day teaching online, it didn’t feel great to sit in front of a screen for very long, but I did my best.
I TOOK CARE OF MY PHYSICAL HEALTH
I ate well.
I slept well.
And I scheduled that stupid knee surgery that I’d been postponing. At six weeks out, I’m walking two miles a day before it starts to ache a bit. Hopefully, it’ll be even better in another two months.
I TOOK CARE OF MY MENTAL HEALTH
In the ideal world, I process challenging things by sitting close to someone, talking things out face-to-face, and hugging it out. COVID has forced me to manage my own sadness.
I learned how to do this during benzo withdrawal and my subsequent divorce, so it SUCKED to have to move into what feels like solitary confinement yet again. I’d only just acquired a few people to whom I can turn when I am struggling. Suddenly, COVID made it so those people would no longer let me in.
I am eternally grateful to my father and a few close friends in different time zones who allowed me to call or text them whenever I needed to do so.
I LET SOME THINGS GO
I’d hoped to play my drums more.
It didn’t happen.
I hoped to complete my memoir in 2020.
It didn’t happen.
I just didn’t have the mental energy to work on something so emotional with everything being so dang emotional all day long.
Also, I spent too much of 2020 hoping that a certain person would come around and care about me the way I cared for him. After chasing him for way too long, I’ve finally realized he’s not my person. When someone cares about you and your feelings, they want to see you. They want to talk to you. They don’t ghost you; they don’t make you a last priority. This has been a painful realization – and I’ve learned that sometimes people’s actions do not always align with their words, and I need to pay attention both. (You’d think I’d know this by now, but I seem to be in the “slow class” when it comes to healthy relationships.) At least I see this clearly now, and I will exercise more caution before allowing myself to get attached to the wrong person in the future.
MY YEAR IN NUMBERS
Each year, I like to reflect on different areas of my life. Most of these things are subjective, but I also like to look at the numbers, too. After all, numbers don’t lie. Blue reflects numbers that were up from last year; Red represents numbers that were down from last year.
8,667 – combined followers on all social media outlets
1,587 – people on my mailing list
384 – unique pieces of artwork sold this year
160 – unique client sales
30 –people I spoke with who are healing from an iatrogenic brain injury
90 – individual art classes taught
100 – number of ornaments sold
19 – Best selling print image DON’T LOOK BACK, FLOWER FACE
2 – number of shows/festivals in which I participated*
(PS: I didn’t really participate, but my work was represented. Much gratitude to Stephanie Rober Sheedy for bringing my work to Naples, New York; to Lauren Hirsch for showing my work during her holiday pop-up shows at Lauren Hirsch Custom Framing & Original Art in Naples, New York; and to Erika Sorbello for carrying my work at her amazing Gallery Salon in Rochester, New York.
1 – speaking engagement via ZOOM
0 – number of first dates I went on
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
I’m not sure.
But that’ll be the topic of my first post in 2020.
I definitely need to do some hard thinking on how I want my life to look and feel moving forward. Changes definitely need to be made, so the questions are:
- What kinds of things can I change realistically, given that COVID restrictions will continue for some time and the future is uncertain?
- Also, how can I continue to thrive personally & professionally in this extremely challenging climate & culture.
I am curious to know how y’all are doing. What has worked for you this year? What has gone to shit? Please share your thoughts here or on Facebook or via DM. It helps me to read your words, and — if you post publicly — chances, are your words will help someone else, too.
PS: Artwork in this post is still available. Please inquire if you are interested in purchasing.
I first met Mary in Nursery School.
We were outside, standing at wooden easels that were taller than we were.
“Your tree is really good,” I said, pointing at her paper. She’d managed to draw a maple with yellow leaves that actually looked like leaves. There was even a squirrel inside a knotty bough.
Mary came over to consider my canvas. “Your tree doesn’t look real,” she said, “but I like it anyway.”
A lifelong friendship was forged.
Over the years, we performed in school plays together, stayed after school for roller-skating parties, attended carnivals and festivals and fairs. We loved singing in music class with Mr. Metz, and we were in the same reading group all the way through fifth grade. In middle school, we served numerous detentions together and rode the same late bus home; and while our closest friendship circles did not always overlap, we always remained devoted to each other.
Fun fact: Mary was my first kiss.
(And no it wasn’t like that.)
We were practicing for a boy we liked, so we helped each other ‘prepare,’ each of us offering extensive feedback on the other person’s technique.
We trusted each other and were honest with each other about everything.
Mary and I remained in touch long after we graduated from high school. We celebrated the births of each of our children, and when Facebook came around, she and I were among the first to sign on. We loved sharing stories and, later, photographs.
We went through difficult times together. Her divorce. Then mine. Loss. Injuries. Illnesses. We loved each other through it all and remained loyal to each other.
When Mary told me she was moving to North Carolina, I was devastated. Knowing she was just seventy miles down the Thruway was of of great comfort to me and, during her last few years in Syracuse, whenever I was visiting for an extended period of time, we would meet up, even briefly, for coffee and connection.
We would reminisce about the ’70s and ’80s, about how, whenever I stayed overnight at her house, we stayed up late, pressing our noses against the glass of her bedroom window, which overlooked the giant screen at the DeWitt Drive-In.
We had no business watching those movies, but we did. And we made up entire conversations about what we imagined the characters were saying.
To this day, I can’t watch Jaws without hearing Mary’s take on the voice of the shark.
“I’m biting off your leg!” she’d announce. “Chomp chomp chomp!”
Then we’d scream and remind each other that the severed limb drifting to the bottom of the ocean was just a special effect.
“It isn’t real,” she’d say. “It’s not real.”
Today, though, the scary thing is real.
And I hate it.
I don’t have any wise words.
I could rant about how COVID-19 isn’t a hoax.
That it took my friend, the sweetest, most loving and good person I have ever known.
In each of her roles — as wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, grandma — Mary was extraordinary. She was straight and she was gay and then she was straight again. She was an artist and a teacher and a friend and a Christian. She was the most inclusive, least judgmental person I have ever known.
Her love was big, and it knew no sexes or shades. She wasn’t about this side or that side.
Mary lived passionately and with great integrity every single day — which isn’t easy in a world where people judge you for being even the tiniest bit weird.
When she and Jerry were cleaning out their house before their move to North Carolina, Mary came to see me at my parents’ house. We laughed about how we used to dress up in matching white nightgowns and sing into our hairbrushes.
“I’m giving you all this crap,” she said, depositing four enormous bags of supplies into the trunk of my car.
“What am I supposed to do with all of this?” I asked her as I sifted through bags of ribbons and buttons and tissue paper.
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “But I know you’ll make something beautiful out of it.”
I’ll try, Mare. I’ll try.
But, honestly, I feel like someone just told me they have discontinued phthalo blue — and you know a painting isn’t worth a damn thing without a little phthalo in it.
PS: The sky is purple and orange for you tonight.
POST-PUBLICATION NOTE: WordPress automatically changed the title of my piece to “Things Pro-Choice Proponents Should Never Assume,” — which feels creepy to me. I have manually gone in and changed the title back. I hope you will will read to the end for the larger purpose of this piece.
The beauty of our country is that we have the right to agree to disagree. We can resolve things through voting and debate, but some topics strike such a tender chord with people, it is sometimes difficult to have any dialogue at all.
When I was in college and graduate school in the late 1980s – early 1990s, I believed that every educated person was Pro-Choice.
It seemed obvious.
I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this assumption was actually built into the course syllabus.
Folks with higher degrees were The Smart People.
And Smart People were, of course, Pro-Choice.
Pro-Lifers were religious zealots.
In 1991, I landed my first job teaching 3rd grade English as a Second Language. I worked with a teacher whom I adored. Kathy was smart, generous, kind, and warmhearted. She treated every child equally. She arranged the desks in neighborhoods and talked about community responsibilities. She bedazzled her bulletin boards and spent a lot of time doing little things she believed mattered to her students.
And her students loved her.
In the spring of 1992, as the debate over Roe v. Wade heated up, an event was planned in front of Buffalo’s GYN/Women Services. My friends and I agreed it was our obligation to ensure that women were able to make their appointments free from harassment from the notorious rabble-rousers who were coming to town. After all, GYN/Women Services provided prenatal care and regular obstetrics appointments for its many patients. It was not a killing field. It was a medical office that mainly provided routine office procedures like breast exams and pap smears in addition to providing legal abortions.
I went to the rally with two friends.
It was pandemonium.
People screamed at each other from both sides of the street. On both sides of the issue. I didn’t like the things the Pro-Choice people were chanting: things like “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” and offensive rhymes which dragged religion into the issue. My friends and I didn’t have a problem with anyone’s religious practices, and we didn’t want to be associated with all that noise. So we wandered across the street to CVS and bought some electrical tape.
And we taped our mouths shut.
Truth is, we had been just as offended by what people on “our” side of the street were chanting as we were by the 7-foot images of partially formed fetuses that the folks on the Pro-Life side were holding.
And we wanted to separate ourselves from the rhetoric.
It would have been nice to have had an opportunity to express that. But no one asked for our story.
Reporters and photographers were busy looking for one cool image.
And their camera lenses landed on us.
When our picture was published in LIFE magazine, I brought a copy to school to show Kathy, my teacher-friend. I wanted to talk to her about the caption which read “Women tape their mouths shut to represent The Silent Majority who favor safe, legal abortion” — and how that didn’t quite capture the whole story.
I wanted to tell her about how proud I was for standing up for my views, but how — at the end of the day — when the news vans with their giant satellite dishes had driven away, I felt a little like a pawn in someone else’s chess game. How it had occurred to me everyone had an agenda and we, women, had been pitted one against the other by religious leaders and politicians, by media spokespeople who encouraged participants from both sides of the street to shout louder when their cameras were rolling.
Kathy looked at me coolly and said:
“I guess we were on different sides of the street that day.”
Honestly, it was the first time I realized that intelligent people — really intelligent people — could be on the “other” side of the issue.
Kathy and I worked side by side for the rest of the year, but our interactions were different. I learned so much from her: how to treat children with dignity, how to walk the fine line between friend and disciplinarian, how to integrate non-native speakers of English into the larger class: so many things. One afternoon, I tried for the umpteenth time to discuss the the topic with her. I so wanted to make things right.
“Let’s just agree to disagree,” she said.
I never realized an issue could be so divisive that it could destroy a friendship.
But it did.
Kathy taught me to keep politics and religion out of the workplace.
To be silent about “personal” matters.
But the personal is always political, and thirty years later, we are seeing what happens when people stay silent.
I still believe women must continue to have the right to make their own decisions regarding anything that impacts their bodies. I still believe that abortion must remain a safe and legal procedure for women who find themselves having to make difficult, life-altering decisions.
And I also realize that many other people still believe something 100% different.
Which is annoying.
And this is what happens in a democracy.
It is, however, possible to be vocal & respectful when expressing oneself with regard to a controversial topic.
If nothing else, Kathy taught me there are many legitimate sides to every issue. It is essential we understand that in acknowledging the opposing sides of the argument, we are not weakening our own stance.
Unfortunately, I believe that we are in for many more dark days ahead as for as the political situation in our country. That being said, we can only control ourselves, and while *certain leaders* may be normalizing disrespectful behavior and uninformed rhetoric, it behooves us to sift through the rhetoric of our politicians and remember to be civilized with each other.
Ever lose a friend as a result of political or religious differences? Which, if any, of your core beliefs have changed over the last 20 years?
tweet me @rasjacobson
THE YEAR IN REVIEW – 2019
In 2019, my word of the year was HOME, and I moved into my space and worked to create better relationships so that I feel more at home in Rochester, and I do.
As this year winds down, I figured I’d take a little time to take inventory regarding how I did with realizing the intentions that I set for myself in 2019.
THE SUMMARY IN NUMBERS
5,139 – combined numbers of followers on all social media outlets
962 – people on my mailing list
843 – unique pieces of artwork sold this year
479 – unique client sales
24 – number of new people I spoke with who are going thru a drug-induced brain injury.
23 – art classes taught
8 – number of shows/festivals in which I participated
6 – lectures I gave
5 – number of first dates I went on
0 – number of 2nd dates I went on
- TAKE AN ONLINE CLASS. Nora Tay Gelb and I painted together for 38 weeks, and I completed every lesson — except the last 4, which I plan to complete while I am on vacation.
- COMPLETE MY KITCHEN RENO. Chuck Hajec transformed my kitchen into a functional and inviting space.
- PAINT LIVE MONTHLY. Made it 10 out of 12 months.
- PLAN A WARM WEATHER VACATION • Last year, Christmas was miserable for me. I was cold and by myself without anyone with whom to celebrate. As a result, I decided I didn’t want to ever be in that emotional space again, so I researched and figured out where I might want to go during Holiday Season 2019 — and I worked the entire year to make this a reality. At the time of this publication, I am enjoying the sun and will have numerous visitors during the month I’m in Florida — and I know I’m going to meet a lot of people while I’m down there, too.
- DATE/MEET NEW PEOPLE. I’m a homebody by nature, and I don’t like going out late or meeting at bars or clubs — but in 2019 I said YES to events, invitations and networking opportunities. I took dance classes and starting singing regularly at an Open Mic in Canandaigua and joined an all women’s barbershop group. In 2019, I decided not date and “dinner” with people instead. That feels better for me on a thousand levels. Do I still wish I had a boyfriend? Hell yeah! I miss the companionship and the intimacy…but I’m not going to settle until the right person comes into my orbit and makes me a priority.
- WALK EVERY DAY. I mostly managed to do this…and I even did a month-long gym membership at the end of 2019 – just to see how I liked it — and I plan to rejoin when I return to Rochester in 2020.
- HOST FOUR SISTAH SUPPERS. I hosted 3 and the Annual De-Gift/Regift Potluck Gathering will take place in February 2020.
GET A KITTEN. I decided against the kitten thing. I like having my freedom and having the ability to pick up and go at a moment’s notice. Also, a lot of my clients are either afraid of cats or allergic to them, so this is not a good business plan until I secure new gallery space.
LOOKING AHEAD at 2020
In 2020, my word is CLARITY.
‘Cuz 20/20 is all about seeing things clearly.
In 2020, I will continue to pay attention to my personal, financial, spiritual & emotional wellness and…
- SECURE NEW GALLERY SPACE: I have an application in at The Hungerford, and I’m hoping that to secure a great space for myself in 2020.
- IMPROVE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: I’d like to show my gratitude to the people who I care about regularly and have a better relationship with my son. (I’d like to find an awesome boyfriend, too.)
- COMPLETE FIRST DRAFT OF MEMOIR: Because finished is better than perfect.
- INCREASE THE NUMBER OF FESTIVALS 12 in 2020.
- MEET THE CHALLENGES I FACE WITH MORE GRACE.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!
What are YOUR intentions for 2020?
At the end of each year, I like to take a step back and check-in with myself.
I look at the intentions I set for the previous year and see how I did.
2018 Goals in Review
• Participate in an art festival: Always the over-achiever, I participated in 10 shows in 2018, and as a result of these shows, I sold over 600 pieces of art – with the final sale on Christmas Day!
• Create an email list. I kept better records this year of all the people who made purchases in 2018, and I sent out three customized newsletters where I was able to give prior customers first dibs on original work that I’d made. I was also able to let people know where my upcoming shows would be. In 2019, I plan to offer folks on my mailing list special discounts and occasional extras which you’ll only find via my email.
• Grow my social media engagement. In 2018, I stopped worrying about Twitter and LinkedIn. Facebook is my preferred site, where 890 people currently follow my RASJACOBSON ART page. I’ve got another 700 or so over on Instagram, and my blog has about 4,000 followers.
Thank goodness my followers are super interactive: helping me create titles for new artwork, giving me opinions, and helping to gauge general interest of particular products. I started producing short videos and have taken a liking to painting LIVE thanks to everyone’s kind comments and sense of humor about my lack of professionalism when things don’t go as planned.
• Get featured in traditional media. Being featured on the cover of Rochester Magazine far exceeded my wildest expectations. I have to thank Derek Darling at Whitman Works Gallery. If I hadn’t had that art opening there in 2017, I might never have had that opportunity open up for me. I plan to scan the content of the article and upload it to my blog in 2019. I was also interviewed on WAYO and the interview can be found HERE.
• Post one blog a month. I did it, but it wasn’t easy.
• Raise attention to the dangers of benzodiazepines. The side effects associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal are horrifying and hard to articulate. The damage these drugs cause is devastating and there are planetary repercussions for inflicting this kind of harm. These days, I’m fortunate to be able to help to raise awareness about the dangers of benzos and to offer counseling to those who have been injured. In 2018, I spoke with over 100 benzo warriors on 3 different continents.
At shows, I display information about what exactly happened to me, and I always meet someone who wants to know more and wants to share stories. I treasure interactions with other survivors, and I’m reminded of how important it is to continue to be a voice for people who – through no fault of their own – are still struggling with chemical dependency.
I made a donation to World Benzodiazepine Awareness Coalition, which was matched by the folks at Paypal.
• Teach writing classes. I currently teach Intro & Advanced Memoir classes from out of my home – & I have several private clients with whom I work independently to help birth their books. I’m honored to have these incredible women share their stories with me.
• Buy a house. I did it. I moved in! I’ve never lived in a house all by myself before, and it has been an adjustment. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find good people to help me, but I’ve now got a lawn guy and a plow guy and a handyman.
Intentions for 2019
In 2018, my word of the year was CREATE.
All I wanted to do was make and paint and sell and promote.
This year, I’ve got a bunch of goals – and they aren’t all art related.
• Complete draft of my memoir. It’s time.
• Take an online art class. I’ve already started, and I’m stoked because my friend & fellow artist, Nora Tay Gelb, and I are doing the course together! If all goes well, we’ll be painting together for 51 more weeks this year!
• Kitchen renovation. I’m feeling compelled to transform my house into a HOME. Hopefully, a redesign will make the space more functional and inviting.
• Create a painting for over the fireplace. There’s a huge space. It’s blank. ‘Nuf said.
• Paint LIVE once a month. I’m not on any particular schedule with it, but that’s the way I roll. I wish I could commit to every other Friday night or something, but my creative muse doesn’t work that way. I do plan to run a few interactive auctions where people can bid on artwork, and the highest bidder will win. Simple as that!
• Plan a warm weather vacation with other singles. This one TERRIFIES me. I don’t like to travel alone. I just really don’t like it. But if I want to get out of Rochester during the cold weather, I’m going to have to do it because nearly everyone travels with their families and I don’t really know any singles who have the desire/resources to travel soooooo…I’m going to have to research this. If anyone has any experience with this kind of thing, please let me know.
• Secure new gallery space. I left The Hungerford back in May, and now I’d really like to have some small amount of real estate where I can sell my work and be social. I’m not focusing on this one until after the kitchen is done.
• Make an effort to date/meet new people. This is really hard for me because I’m a homebody by nature. I don’t like going out late or meeting at bars or clubs, but I’m willing to say YES in 2019 to events, invitations and networking opportunities.
• Plan for a show for December 2019.
• Get a kitten. It’s time to open up my heart to someone else.
What are some of YOUR intentions for 2019?
I’ve always seen and heard things that other people didn’t. Early on, I could feel other people’s energy and emotions and see people with superimposed color trails ― white, blue, red, orange ― around them. Often, I heard people’s thoughts as clearly as if they’d said them out loud, which, in many cases, I believed they had. As a child, hearing people “say” things and then being told they had not said them was extremely confusing, and I was often accused of making up stories or telling fibs.
To be honest, it was scary to experience reality in a profoundly different way than everyone around me, and over time, I learned to be quiet about my visual and auditory “hallucinations” due to the negative feedback I received.
On August 14, 1999, during the traumatic delivery of my son, I had a near-death experience (NDE). I remember feeling myself levitate from the table. Hovering above my body, I looked down at myself — and the entire room — from about eight feet above. I remember seeing the top of the surgeon’s flowered paper bonnet, and peering down into one of those pink, plastic hospital-order basins. That’s a lot of blood, I thought to myself. I wonder whose blood that is. I also remember feeling like I was being pulled away from the scene below, almost as if I was on some kind of a conveyor belt. I didn’t experience a white light or the feeling of overwhelming love and connection the way many people do. Instead, I felt something malevolent tugging at me. It was scary, and I didn’t like it.
The next thing I knew, I was back inside my body, lying on my back in a room lit only by a dull blue light.
“Am I dead?” I said aloud, to no one in particular.
A nurse reassured me I was not dead at all, and then she left me, ostensibly to locate my husband who was somewhere in the hospital.
Lying in my hospital bed, I found I could hear and connect with the consciousness of others whose physical bodies had died in that space. I felt these agitated spirits swirling around me. Many were angry about being trapped in that room, and they shouted at me to listen to them.
From that moment on, the voices followed me everywhere. It was hard to focus on nursing my newborn son with angry spirits shouting at me. And it was scary not to have anyone to talk to about what I was experiencing. The only way I could deal with the voices was to ignore them, and that is what I did.
Or what I tried to do, anyway.
I stopped talking about what I was hearing, and I tried to exist on one level of consciousness, the way everyone around me expected me to exist.
That’s when the insomnia started.
It was awful.
At night, I’d get out of bed and press my ear against the brick chimney in the bedroom I shared with my husband. “Do you hear that?” I’d ask him night after night. “Do you hear people talking?” But Mark never heard anything and, after a while, he got upset with me for waking him up so frequently.
The rest is a story that many of you have heard.
Busy with a newborn all day and tormented by voices all night, I wound up in a psychiatrist’s office, where I was poly-drugged, first with SSRIs – Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac; then with the anticonvulsant, Lamictal. Eventually, I was given Klonopin, a powerful anti-seizure medication. After seven years of dutifully listening to “experts” and taking the medication exactly as prescribed, I learned Klonopin is not supposed to be taken long-term, that it has many dangerous side effects, and I slowly weaned off of it with the assistance of a specialist. Unfortunately, this wean was a disaster. I endured an horrifying iatrogenic injury which left me disabled and debilitated for many years.
While healing from that trauma, my world blew open again. The voices returned, and this time I could see things, too.
It’s taken me a long time to figure out what brought me to meds in the first place & I’m finally crystal clear on it.
Today, I own all of it.
I’m an artist and a writer and a teacher and a mother.
I’ve survived rape and withdrawal.
And yes, I’m a psychic medium.
Instead of being afraid of the visions and the voices, I now embrace them. Being a medium is like being a translator, decoding a universal emotional language into English ― and at times, hearing words and phrases, feeling impressions of things or watching little movie clips. It is a receiving of information rather than a retrieving of it.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to work with a modern-day healer who did a SIX-HOUR cleaning with me, during which time he sealed up a portal through which malevolent energy was being transmitted. He confirmed that I am plugged into something powerful. (Not that I needed his validation.)
Working with CD was transformative. All my broken soul-pieces have been integrated. I no longer hear angry voices. I’m alert & aware & whole & so very grateful.
Three months short of five years, I am here.
I am healed.
And I have a new understanding about myself and the world.
Western culture teaches us to seek medical help when we are sick, to visit the dentist to get our teeth un-mucked, and we think nothing of hiring specialists to assist us with personal hygiene, legal, financial and medical matters. We hire handymen to help us with things that break in our homes, landscapers to weed our gardens and plumbers to unclog our drains.
And yet, somehow we remain resistant to the idea that things can get clogged up in our heads, too. Old emotional pain can build up in just the same way that a drain can become clogged. We aren’t always great about working these things through on our own – and, in fact, sometimes we need professional help. For some people, talk therapy is enough. For others of us, with more complex trauma, we need to call in the big guns.
And guess what? There are talented practitioners who know how to unclog gunked up emotional pipes, too.
Clearing my emotional mess has allowed me to see my psychic abilities as a blessing rather than a curse. Doing this work requires a willingness to deconstruct one’s life & figure out where you got off your path. It is possible to put yourself back together, but only YOU can do it. As painful as it may be, looking at your life is an opportunity to rebuild.
If you’re interested in learning more about my experience and/or would like to meet with this amazing healer, feel free to contact me and I’ll put you in touch.
Do you believe there there’s another dimension beyond the one we see with our eyes? Or is this waaaay too woo-woo for you? Leave a comment!