The Literary Jersey Girl

Not all Jersey Girls are about hair, nails, and "WTF"

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The Real Me

The real me has messy, windblown hair and a shiny nose. Sunglasses on my head and a watch on my right wrist. Not the left.

The real me gets up with the sun, naps after lunch, and stays up late. Doesn’t wear shoes when the weather is warm. Has “working” hands and polished toes.

The real me lurks under the professional surface, threatening to break free and expose all…

Breaking the Silence: Prologue (December 1992 – January 1993)


I drive past my alma mater almost every day. It’s a little surreal, seeing how much the campus has changed while remaining the same in so many ways. I feel like I did most of my ‘growing up’ in the place where I completed my bachelor’s degree; so that campus holds a special place in my heart and in my life.
It’s winter break, and the campus is almost empty. There are a few cars in the apartment parking lots; students who live in the on-campus apartments can stay through the break, while those in the dorms cannot. Students that have decided to stay through most of the break either do so because home is too far away, or they have a local job, or there is no other place to go besides campus housing.

Driving past this time of year, during the winter break, I’m reminded of another winter break a lifetime ago…

Once upon a time, there lived a girl in the heart of the Pine Barrens. We’ll call her C. She dreamed of working for MTV. Just 21 years old, C had her entire life ahead of her. She was a broadcast journalism major, and spent much of her non-class time at the student-run TV station on campus. C was determined to have a career in television, and everything she did worked towards that goal. She had completed exactly half of her degree at the end of the fall semester in 1992.

C returned to her parents’ home for winter break, as most college students do, with the promise of employment at the family store. If she worked in the store, it would give her dad some much-needed time off and provide her with the remainder of the money she needed for spring classes. C therefore declined a guaranteed on-campus job, and returned to her hometown. Arriving home, she was greeted with the information that she was NOT needed at the family store, and she would be without employment for the month. Panicked because she needed tuition money, C began scrambling for any available job opportunity. She filled in as a banquet server for holiday parties, she picked up waitressing shifts here and there, and tried to find other short-term employment to get her through until she returned to school and her library job.

It’s important to know that C’s relationship with her parents was rocky. Her mother was and still is a functional alcoholic. Her father, for all his good qualities, was and still is an enabler. C’s father was known to side with his wife during any conflict, even ignoring the fact that his wife drove drunk with the children in the car. C learned early in life that her father would seldom intervene. He spent long hours at work, and usually missed the alcohol-induced abuses that happened at home. C’s mother was against her children attending college, and often pointed out that she had done ‘just fine’ without higher education. In a surprising show of defiance, C’s father insisted that both his daughters obtain at least a bachelor’s degree.

C’s mother grew angrier each time C left the house for work during the break. She and her mother were never close, and what was left of that relationship deteriorated while C was in college. C’s mother went so far as to try and prevent her daughter from working by ‘accidentally’ blocking her car in, or picking fights as she was about to walk out the door. The tension came to a head one evening as C returned home from work.
Two other people bore witness to the argument between C and her mother that evening: her father and her sister. To this day, they maintain they do not remember the events of that night.
Drunk and angry, C’s mother pounced as soon as C walked in the door. The crux of the argument was some paperwork C’s mother found while going through C’s room.
C refused to argue with her mother, and even offered to stay elsewhere for the night so issues could be calmly discussed the next day. This was unacceptable, and the mother told her daughter to get out and never come back. C appealed to her father with a single plea: “Daddy???”
Her father’s response was to hide further behind his newspaper and utter the oft-repeated phrase C had grown to dread: “You know your mother…”
That phrase meant he would not interfere, and would once again not stand up for his children to their mother.

As C packed her belongings, she began making calls to try and find a place to stay. School didn’t start for another week, and she could not return to her dorm room until then. No one she spoke to was able to help her. Broke, upset, and her car in iffy condition, C made one last call to an acquaintance who had remained on campus over the break. He was the friend of a friend and C didn’t know him that well, but she was desperate. He unhesitatingly told her to come down, and he and his roommates would let her stay in their apartment until the dorms opened back up for the spring semester.

As she drove down to campus that night, she was in shock. She knew she and her mother never had the greatest relationship, but she never expected her own mother to kick her out, and her father to stand by and do nothing. She reminded herself she was 21 years old and a legal adult…so really, had she been kicked out? Her brain shifted into overdrive as she wondered how she would pay her tuition. And if she couldn’t pay the full tuition, how many classes could she drop and still maintain the number of credits required to keep her in the dorms for the semester? She thought about the cost of books for her classes, and how she was going to afford those. And her car…it desperately needed repairs, so she had to figure out how to afford that as well. Things were not looking good…but at least she had a place to stay until the dorms opened up for the spring.

Little did she know that her decision to take her acquaintance up on his offer would have repercussions that would echo through her life more than 20 years later…

5/11/19

Feeling pensive tonight. Brooding, in fact. I thought about eating or drinking my feelings, but I’m getting a little old for that nonsense. At the same time, a glass of wine and some cheap Chinese takeout do lend a sort of authenticity to my current mood.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, I’ve written more than once about pain. Not so much physical pain, but mental and emotional pain. Not that I consider my writing to be overly depressed; yet pain is a topic that comes up over and over in my ruminations. Why? We’ve all endured emotional anguish. Some of us have found our way through, some have not.

Feelings were not permitted in my home growing up. You were shamed, punished, or taunted if you showed hurt, sadness, any softness or vulnerability. The only acceptable negative emotion was anger.

I spoke once that pain comes in many varieties. I was speaking of your own pain, caused by something you did directly, or that happened to you directly. What about the pain you feel on behalf of another? That empathic, empty, helpless pain as you watch someone you care about hurt. There’s not a thing you can do to help or assuage their feelings. It’s the helpless part that bothers me the most. Especially if it’s a pain you know, because it is something you went through yourself. The helpless feeling comes because we can’t truly feel another’s feelings. Emotional pain should be scaled, like physical pain. My cat died in my arms; that was like an eight for me. For someone else, it might be a six. Because we can’t gauge or truly experience someone else’s pain, we don’t know what might make them feel better. Or at least I don’t. As good as I am with words (and let’s face it, I *can* turn a phrase…), this is where I am often truly speechless. I don’t know what to say, how to say it, should I hug them, should I leave them alone…what?!?! What is the right thing, the best thing, the most comforting thing I can do? I usually find myself saying I’m sorry they are hurting, and then telling them to call me if they need anything. But that seems so weak. What I want to say is something like, “It pains me to see you hurting. I want to make you feel better but I don’t know how, or if you would want me to.” Something along those lines- like, tell me what you need from me so I can be there. Or if you want to be left alone, tell me and I’ll fuck off for a little while. I want to be a good friend when people I care about are hurting, but I don’t know how. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. And I wonder if my weak offers of condolences and assistance do more harm than good.

I like analogies, and when I come up with a good one, I like to share it. A favorite is that relationships are like a two-person rowboat. I may have a new favorite now, and that is the idea that watching someone you love endure pain that you yourself have experienced is akin to watching them walk on a bed of hot coals. You can’t walk on the coals for them and take on that pain…yet you’ve been there and you know how fucking hot those coals are. And as you see the pain in your loved one’s eyes, and see them wince, you wince along with them because you were walking on those same coals not long ago. However, you’re helpless. You can’t walk on the coals for them. All you can do is walk along beside them on the cooler ground, encouraging them and holding their hand.

Complacency no bueno, 4/2/18

Close examination of yourself is like cleaning out your closet. And I mean a thorough cleaning. Pulling the hidden stuff out of the back, examining it, and trying EVERY. DAMN. THING. on to see if any of it still fits.

A series of recent conversations with an old acquaintance/new friend (yes there is a difference, and that’s another blog for another time) made me realize that I’ve become complacent. Areas in my life where I should not be complacent…and shouldn’t settle. I shouldn’t lose myself again.

It’s been a long time since someone held a mirror up to me AND got me to look into it. And like that thorough closet cleaning, I have to pull everything out and look at it. I have to make sure it still fits with who I am today. Are there things that can be adjusted-like pants that are a little too long and need to be hemmed? Are there things that are so hideous that I have no earthly idea how I ended up with them-like a crazy skirt for a night out that never happened? Those things need to GO. What about things that may have served you in the past, but are no longer relevant-like a shirt purchased for a waitressing job…four jobs ago. Or, things that you hang on to because they have sentimental value, or you’ve had them so long you don’t know how to begin to get rid of them-like your grandmother’s fur hat that doesn’t fit your head. Those things are harder to get rid of. Like certain personality traits or life aspects that no longer serve you…or that don’t match who you want to be…or life circumstances that have become unpleasant or even unbearable. We become used to those things, and have made adjustments in life to accommodate them…like those too-long pants that you roll up instead of getting them hemmed. Or that shirt you will NEVER wear. It’s taking up space in the back of your closet. Same as personality traits or situations that are…well, they aren’t part of who you’ve become, and even though there is discomfort…it’s so damn hard to let those things go.

And, as hard as it is to let these things go-we have to in order to grow and change. The only constant in life is change. Change keeps us from complacency. I think complacency is the killer of passion. And I refuse to live my life without passion.

Triumph? 3/10/18

Go big or go home, the saying goes. In my case, I went home TO go big, in a sense. Let me explain…
One of the worst residuals of my past is an underlying suspicion of anyone who tries to touch me. I used to trust my instincts about people implicitly and completely. If someone didn’t “feel” right to me, they didn’t get close enough to touch me, period. I was open to hugs from people I knew well. Casual touch didn’t freak me out, nor did those accidental touches incurred in a crowd.
Consensual touch is an important form of communication between humans; whether the touch is simple affection or something more intimate. This is especially true in close relationships. Conclusive, reliable studies illustrate the effects of touch, or lack thereof, on children and adults.
Withholding affection and affectionate touch is as much of an abuse tactic as is violence and violent non-consensual touch.
As I recovered from the past, I questioned my instincts about people, and therefore kept a wide personal space. I couldn’t tolerate crowds because someone might accidentally touch me. And for a long time, any touch from someone I didn’t know very well was BAD.
Slowly I’ve learned to trust my instincts again. And as that has happened, I’ve been able to hug friends and even tolerate hugs from well-meaning near strangers. I’ve been able to go into crowds without a paralyzing fear of someone accidentally touching me.
And how does that play into going home to go big? I got a new tattoo last weekend. A good sized one, compared to my others. One that required the artist to be behind my back and in my personal space for a long period of time. And the tattoo I wanted was something meaningful to me. Maybe it’s a little much, but I went back to my hometown, back to my roots to get this tattoo. I sought the best tattoo artist I know, someone I’ve known a good portion of my life. Someone I can trust, not just with this steeped-in-meaning piece of art, but also to be close to me and actually touch me. For me, receiving this tattoo was a sort of intimacy; a big step in healing. The art is a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings. And as the ink heals, the skin is shed, and the beauty of the art revealed; so I hope I too am remade, reborn, and rendered better than before.

The Dream

I used to dream regularly. Many were vivid, and most times I’d remember them to write them down the next day.  After enduring many nightmares, my dreaming mind seemed to have shut down for the most part. I now seldom dream, but when I do, it’s both vivid and memorable.
A dream I had recently appeared innocuous on the surface, but after some thought, I find it unsettling. Or what it implies is disturbing to me. Anyway…
My dream begins as I’m traveling with a group of people to an unknown location. I don’t know any of these people. Through talking to them, I learn we’ve all been selected to help a struggling community. The catch is that we leave our homes, families, everything familiar to us…with no notice. And we aren’t allowed any communication for two years.  It’s insinuated that we are traveling far enough that no one and nothing we know will be around when our two year communication ban is up. Almost as if we are time traveling, or traveling light years away.

Thinking I’m clever (as usual) I pull out a hidden cell phone…only to find it blank. No contacts, social media, pictures…. nothing.
We’ve basically been raptured, because as far as those we left behind know, we’ve vanished without a trace and no explanation.
People around me were wishing they could call someone, let someone know what happened. They lamented the fact that they’d left loved ones behind without so much as a goodbye.
It was only after reflection a day or so later, I realized I was the only one in the dream who had no one to call. No one who would miss my presence. To get a little more ‘out there’ no one who would miss my essence, personality, spirit, soul…whatever. It made me feel empty, and I realized I failed at one of the most important things in life…human relationships.
It is important to know this is how I feel. I’m not laying blame; there’s no one to blame but me. I guess I’m wondering…like why do I feel this way? What is WRONG with me?? And…what’s wrong with me, really? :,( because the common denominator in all my failures is me.

This one is different

This post, this piece of writing is different because I am writing this now and publishing immediately, instead of editing and rewriting.

Why?

Because…well, I’m angry at myself for even hesitating a microsecond to speak up about my abuse in the name of hopefully helping others. And I just now did that. That hesitation happens sometimes, and I don’t always know why. Sometimes I’m emotionally tired, and I simply can’t. Sometimes I’m still embarrassed and ashamed…actually that’s frequently and I fucking hate that I feel that way!!! If I truly believed I did nothing wrong, and that none of it was my fault, then why the fuck am I still ashamed?!

I wonder if that’s what people see when they look at me-a victim, someone who wasn’t smart enough to get it together and get out. Or if they think I’m pathetic and fragile and mental because of it.

The truth is sometimes I AM fragile; more fragile than I used to be and too fragile for my tastes. I take extra care those times not to react, to put a wall between myself and everyone else so no one can get to me while I’m so vulnerable. And sometimes…yeah, I’ll say it, I’m mental. I go down into the abyss…I freak out when I shouldn’t…and my bad days are bad. Really bad sometimes.

Sometimes telling my story brings all that up.  So sometimes I hesitate, out of self preservation.

and I feel like the world’s biggest asshole when I do…

MY imposter syndrome takes steriods…

I’m not good enough. That pervasive, not-specific-to-any-event feeling of inadequacy appears, for me, at the most inopportune times. Does this happen to anyone else? Sometimes for me, it hides behind a case of imposter syndrome. But I’m more plainspoken and this was more than imposter syndrome. This time it was a force that spun me to the past and said, authoritatively, “Look! You aren’t GOOD enough!! You aren’t ENOUGH! Not good enough THEN (provides proof via flashbacks, spins me to the present) and NOT enough NOW! Fool,” it scoffed.

The voice is right in a visceral, tangible way. The voice is also wrong, but the problem is the wrongness is not as apparent as the rightness. I have proof of the rightness. I don’t have proof of the wrongness. I feel like I ‘have to’ say that the voice is wrong because that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to say when someone (or some voice) talks smack. But sometimes…I don’t really feel that way. I agree with that voice because I am a realist. And what I see is the tangible proof of rightness, and lack of proof of wrongness. And I don’t know how to let that go.

The tangible proof of the voice’s right-ness hurts; an actual physical pain right near where my heart is anatomically located.

This is a really hard thing to write about. I’ve never talked about it with anyone. I can’t. I’m afraid it will sound too much like I am fishing for compliments or assurance or something. I’m not. At least I don’t think I am. I want organic admiration; not because someone thinks I want to hear it, or need it, or to make me feel better.

I just want a damn hug. No words. Maybe someone who understands how this feels and can tell me that. There really is some assurance in simple physical contact.

Sometimes I wonder if I would feel better if I found out whether I was, in fact, “good enough” or “enough” or maybe, just maybe, “too much.” How do you even ask such a question, or begin that conversation? There is no way that I can come up with that feels comfortable for me. It’s an exquisite agony, this ‘need-to-know-wait-don’t-tell-me’ feeling.

I will never have an answer. Never know for sure. Therefore this ugly feeling will return. And I will once again drown in this whirlpool of not-good-enough-ness….

12/28/17

When I can’t think of a title, I always use the date. Always have. Probably goes back to those notebooks; I dated every entry.

I have stuff on my mind. I’m sure writing would help ease the burden…but I hesitate. I’m mindful of the public forum here. I have a hard time really talking to anyone, too. So it’s all inside, and I think it’s behind how shitty I’ve felt recently.

I’m not even sure how to start…which is obvious from the procrastinative meandering I’m doing. Is procrastinative even a word??

Things are strange at home. And I don’t know if it’s just me. My partner and I don’t have any mutual friends anymore, so there’s no one else to see any of this stuff. That’s another weird thing, maybe, but that’s probably another piece of writing.

My partner comes home a different person after he spends a couple hours with his work friends. Like with a completely different personality. And I suspect he’s doing more than drinking with them. He has a history of dabbling with, well, substances. Medicines. Stuff that is stronger than booze or weed. He comes home completely wasted, and mean.

It’s not just that. He’s not really even a partner. I mean, I don’t feel that way. I didn’t always feel this way though. Things used to be different.

We had our problems; everyone does. My turning point was the summer of 2012. It’s kind of a long story. The husband of a couple we were friends with thought it was ok to grope me and proposition me. I told my partner how uncomfortable it made me, and he blew me off. I was afraid of this guy. I mean, one night I actually slapped him, and my partner called me out for it.

One day the husband cornered me at their house, asserting his right to “feel those double Ds mashed up against me,’ and my partner happened to see it. We ended up leaving the party, to a chorus of name calling. My partner said nothing. Not a word. My partner then expected me to return to the house for another party a few weeks later.  After I explained how it all made me feel-again. How afraid of this guy I was. My partner couldn’t or wouldn’t see it. I tried playing sick, but my partner more or less forced me to go back there. I told  the wife what had been going on and how it made me feel. I actually downplayed the things he did and said to me. She stuck up for her husband, which ended our friendship. No one stuck up for me.

Now, five years later, now that all of this assault and harassment shit is coming out, NOW my partner apologizes to me. That apology felt hollow though…like an afterthought.

My partner continues to maintain a friendship with this couple. Betrayed doesn’t cover how I feel. I feel violated all over again. I never gave this man permission to touch me-I hit him, pushed him, said NO every single way I knew how, and he still felt that my body was his property. Other women, I later learned, suffered worse; like the friend he climbed into bed with, naked, when she was too drunk to realize what was going on.

Part and parcel of a life partnership is to have your partner’s back. To defend and protect them if needed. He doesn’t have my back. He destroyed my trust that summer. And I really think that opened my eyes, and maybe even changed my attitude. It had to have. I put up a wall to protect myself. And now I sit in my little fortress, inside a gilded cage of sorts. I’m Rapunzel.

I’m also very alone. And sometimes, like today, it is really REALLY hard. A partner is supposed to share the burden, at least that’s what I thought. Or help row the boat.

I’m rowing the damn boat alone and my fucking arms are tired.

Feeling a bit like Carrie Bradshaw…

It occurred to me I seldom think about my preferences. Say what now?? Doesn’t make sense…of COURSE everyone thinks about their preferences.
Not so. Not me, anyway. Allow me to illustrate…
Consider a multiple choice question. Especially for a subjective test. You read the question, then review the choices. At least one is glaringly wrong. Two or more are mostly wrong. Then there’s usually at least two that are more right…maybe not the exact choice you’d make…but they’re the only choices left. So you pick one.
My life is exactly like this. Is everyone else’s, too?
A recent encounter boiled down to three options: don’t do it at all, choose what’s presented, or provide a suitable alternative. Not doing it was glaringly wrong. That left me with two other options…honestly neither was my preference. So I picked the one that was least wrong. Is that what life is? Living with what’s the least wrong? Is life really a giant multiple choice quiz??

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