From the cover of This Present Darkness, by Tim LaHaye
process

An Excerpt from The Oat Project

darkness

From the cover of This Present Darkness, by Tim LaHaye

JOURNAL 11.21.2012

Last night, I sat with my mom as she struggled through the worst night of pain thus far in her fight with cancer. Her abdomen was sore from throwing up, the morphine was not working well, and her thirst remained unquenched fearing more nausea.

I felt completely helpless. I could not feel the pain for her. So I just kept rubbing her hands, feet, and back. It was all I could do.

A few weeks before, I had run into my chiropractor at a coffee shop and asked him for suggestions on how to ease her pain. He showed me how to “pull pain off the body” via pressure points on the hands and feet.

Last night, as my mom seemed to barely breathe from one moment to the next, as I stroked her legs and feet, up and down, I recalled his instructions. So on the down stroke, I imagined my hands pulling the pain out, ending with squeezing the tips of her toes, pulling, almost snapping at the end of each toe. She said, “Ah, that feels wonderful.”

My inner eyebrows raised in surprise. It felt wonderful. A technique based on an Eastern religious understanding of the body’s chakras and chi had worked when the acceptable Western medicine failed.

I kept rubbing and thought of the 80s, post-Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, of the paranoia that swept the evangelical church in an intense shift from fighting evil metaphorically and inside of ourselves to battling literal demons infesting every bad thing, from illness to mere discomfort. A lady once told me she’d prayed to God to defeat the demon keeping her from finding a parking place close to a store. We were told to “take up the sword of Christ” against demonic forces in constant conversational prayer with God and His Spirit.

The 1960s’ rise of the Age of Aquarius with its Eastern philosophy, religion, and mysticism philosophy was part of the Devil’s plan, to be battled and stamped out as thoroughly as possible. Energy healing, with its chakras and meridians, was strictly forbidden. Christ, after all, was a Westerner.

I’m not sure when the shift to even marginal acceptability began. Was it scientific studies proving acupuncture’s efficacy? Or a prominent Christian’s testimony? A conspiracy? Or was it the slow crumbling of the wall between church and pop culture? The tethering of the church’s fortunes with the modern youth culture? The “weakening of faith” integrating Eastern philosophies in pop culture via a million references inside church over the years?

However it came to be, in 2012, my mother–a former conservative evangelical preacher’s wife, a faithful evangelical Christian–did not balk or pull her feet away when I told her I pulled off her pain on a technique based on the dreaded chakras and meridians and chi. She was thankful for it.

So though I had been out of the church seven years by the time of the project, the intensity of the struggle against the powers of darkness embedded in my thinking as I came to adulthood in the 1980s still tinged how I viewed energy work.

I had heard it worked but had never considered it for help with pregnancies or depression and panic. I didn’t think of my body that way. And though my belief in a demon-riddled world had waned with increasing doubt of the devil’s (not evil) existence, it seemed more mumbo-jumbo than science. So, the fear remained.

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denver botanical garden 120
Jené, process

The Spiral of a Party: On Friendship

denver botanical garden 120Last night, as I stood at the stove at my own birthday party and created, stirred, and spiced the soup, I listened to all of you (my children included) talking, laughing, connecting. You thought I was fussing over a dish, but hearing all my people meet and love each other as much as I love you all was one of the true gifts of the party. I am in awe of who I get to call Friends, new, long-time, and in between. Thank you, thank you.

Spiral: the perpetual dance of chaos and order = life, moments, parties, friendships, love.

Some of you were there in spirit rather than body because of all the brilliant schtuff to do in our little city last night (how I wish I could’ve split myself in half to go to all of it!). I felt your presence, especially whilst dancing. Thank you for that certainty.

Some of you didn’t come because I didn’t make my deadline (emphasis on the “my”). What you should know is where I am right now: at the computer (at my store), The Oat Project doc open, DOing it. Making my house clean for guests was another of the true gifts of taking the time to have a party…the ability to stand at the home desk and look upon loveliness instead of the messy results of being so busy = the space to finish the book. Thank you for your tenacious, patient, love and support, even when you’re frustrated with this process.

And I needed to reconnect, have been isolating for so long–for so many reasons–needed to remember, with these stronger, grief-tempered emotional muscles, my part in a community. Thank you.

This is the last push. The Last Push. Y’all won’t be seeing me much for a while, as I’m heading back into the lonely/rich place of manuscript only. See you on the other side, and thank you, so deeply, thank you, for your love, care, and the impetus/inspiration to keep writing. You make my life. Love and hugs, Jene’

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venus
blurting, Jené

A Birthday Poem

venus

Fundamental, by Jene’ Jackson on her birthday, today, as she drove home down Colorado Avenue after writing all day.

Perhaps,

pungent as the cut onion’s night after night spray in kitchen curtains

pervasive as the toddler’s goo griming the minvan seats

tenacious as the smoker’s film of brown on bedroom walls,

Perhaps each love,

each foray into the land of the heart

each attempt, short-lived or long,

leaves its residue,

coats the inside of the wholehearted with lighthearted joy,

rosy, curious, prismatic,

Ready for the next foray, in this life or that,

pervasive

pungent

tenacious

Whole.

Perhaps.

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WIN_20140810_173524
book news, events, Jené

Life: 0 to 60 in Fourteen Seconds Flat

WIN_20140810_173524You know how Life can go from 0 to 60 in fourteen seconds flat? I’m clocking in at 74 with an eye on 90. Before I tell you why, thank you, so very much, for walking through this life with me, for supporting my efforts as writer/photographer/singer/speaker/etc=Artist. I’m still going! Some changes have zoomed into my life lately. You’ll see an Announcement about The Book soon, but the biggest change is this: I’m now managing partner of a bookstore!

A few months ago, a dear friend who is also the owner of The Bookman said, “Ya wanna run my store, Jené ?” And it took one and a half seconds to say, “Yes, thank you.” That scared him a little, lol, but I knew instantly this was the right thing to do, for him and his wife (we call her Mrs. Bookman), for me and my kids, and for our future. It’s a strong base for all the writing and art I am doing and have planned, and it was a gift from heaven as an income. You will soon see announcements for author/writer/reader events as I change some things around and tweak things and try stuff…be an owner, in other words. You can find updates on incoming books, events, and photos of the two resident cats here. And I would love to see you all in person at 3163 W. Colorado Ave, from 10-7 Mon-Sat and 10-5 Sun. :)

Going from unemployed to being The Boss who grapples with Excel has required massive amounts of energy…energy that has not been present in my grieving body for over a year. Most days of the first few weeks at the store, I just fell into bed after getting home in the midst of grinding fatigue, but now, I’m slowly adjusting to the physical fortitude it takes to “do retail” and be walking, talking, and helping people for 9 hours at a stretch. And if you’ve been waiting patiently and impatiently on The Oat Project, know this: I have grown stronger and it has been a boon to the writing. No announcement yet, but it’s coming (translated: I’m writing).

Back in May, I was honored to once again be asked to tell a story for The Story Project, a local bi-monthly event that is broadcast on 91.5 fm and the Pikes Peak Library District TV channel. I told the story of three of the gifts and lessons from my mom’s last year alive.When I watched it, I was shocked at how calm I seemed. Sharon Friedman asked me to tell that story, and I worked so hard on it with absolutely no progress until two days before the event. I had not been able to make it through the entire thing without breaking down sobbing until what you see there, that night. December 4th looms on the horizon right now, the 2-year anniversary of Mom’s death, and you can read her eulogy here. Both the Story Project videos (May 2014 and the first one from February 2012 about love and the dunes) are archived on YouTube. You can find them here and here.

I’ll leave you (and get back to the writing) with this: While working on the book, I’ve come across the origins of several beliefs/mantras/theories now embedded in my life. From seven years ago! One of them (mentioned in the 2012 SP video) is “The heart is a muscle.” I hope you find opportunity to use and exercise your heartmuscle every day of your life. May you find the courage, build the strength, and rest in the grace of wholehearted living. Love and hugs, Jené

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Mom and me, circa 1982
Jené, process

Happy Birthday, Mom

Mom and me, circa 1982

Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday, mamadear, on what would have been your 69th. I’m sitting here about to watch an Agatha Christie movie, whom you loved, eating beets then pecan shortbread, which you loved (as do I), end-of-week tired from work you would have been so happy to know I was doing.

The kids are with their dad, whom you loved like a son. And we’ll honor you together tomorrow, honor your joy and fun and intelligence and life. But all day today, as I ran the bookstore (you would have loved it!), there’s been a quiet place spinning inside of me, of gratefulness that I was blessed with you as my mom, of pain in missing you as my best friend, of hope that somehow you can see how life is evening out a bit for me, of longing in so many colors and shades and intensities.

Sometimes, I feel as though I failed you in not being more proactive and forceful in helping you beat cancer. I should have been stronger for you, less afraid of offense on all sides and more true to my bossy self. I should have been less afraid of your disapproval. The irony is keen that grieving you is what it’s taken to finally not give a crap (saying “crap” instead of “shit,” just for you) and just be my true self.

I wish I could have been at your grave today, to talk and say hi. I would have brought you one of those unabashedly big feminine birthday cards and underlined phrases in it, like you always did for me. As I am often late (making up, you always said, for your having me three weeks early, lol), I’ll get there soon.

Thank you for being such an amazing person in my life.

I miss your smile.

I miss hearing you sing.

I miss your foot rubs.

I miss seeing you eat a piece of pie in seven seconds.

I miss holding your thumb.

I miss your cornbread.

I miss seeing your eyes sparkle under waggling eyebrows and seesawing shoulders when being bawdy. Like this: 316237_10150427173037612_95438223_n

I miss dancing with you.

I miss your love for my children.

I even miss your certainty that the Rapture would happen soon and those horrible sweatshirts that seemed to contradict your marvelous style.

I miss hearing your vision for things you wanted to do and change and discover.

Thank you for showing me what it looks like to have graceful strength, to be responsive, and to keep an open heart. I love you. I miss you.

Love, Your Daughter

p.s. In May, I told this story about what you taught me the last year of your life. Thank you for setting me free.

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firefire
book news, process

Forest Fires, Drama Queens, and Authenticity

firefire

This is an excerpt from The Oat Project, from the rock concert chapter. It may or may not make the final version (coming this summer!!!). Enjoy…and now, back to it.

It’s like World Wide Wrestling. What is that fake-fighting impulse? Do we all have it in one form or another? Like the forest needs fire to burn out the brush to make room for new growth, does conflagration help our lives grow? Do relationships need flare-ups? Do authentic people show their fiery moods? Does being “adult” and “mature” and “consistent” actually squelch authentic life, dumbing us down, allowing us to hide, curtailing growth? Might allowing a little more “drama” (however intensely I hate it), even when slightly manufactured, lead us to more authenticity?

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"Curried Coconut Oat Patties with Vegan Peanut Sauce"
Jené, process

The Gifts of Empty

"Curried Coconut Oat Patties with Vegan Peanut Sauce"

“Curried Coconut Oat Patties with Vegan Peanut Sauce”

The kitchen is where my inner science geek and slapdashing artist get to dirty dance…pure alchemy.

Cooking has always given me energy, yes; but it also requires a focus, effort, and sense of play that I haven’t been able to muster often over the last year and a half since my mom died. In the midst of not feeling like eating–let alone cooking–apples and cheese, toast, coconut milk lattes, sweet potatoes, and cheese & pickle sandwiches have been my stopgap foods.

Today, my cupboards and fridge were running to empty. This week, the single mom artist life, in between/on the cusp of the big launch/project, caught up to the food budget, so I’ve been eating what was on hand. Everyday, I eat pretty simply anyway, and while going through more of mom’s stuff (yes, still; empathy to those of you who’ve experienced it), rearranging and reorganizing my house, apples and peanut butter or a baked potato with cheese served well for meals most days. Today, there was an apple and peanut butter left, but I ran out of cheese and potatoes a couple of days ago and sweet potatoes a few days before that, and I was just a little sick of the apple thing. But as I organized and cleaned the kitchen, I came upon a few things long forgotten, shoved in the back of cupboards. One was a bag of whole oats. And that sounded good, so I made them for lunch.

But for dinner, I was at a loss. Out of bread (gluten free, alas). Out of cheese, out of chicken or fish, out of salad. I stood at the open fridge like a teenager.

I could eat a pickle. Or yet another apple with peanut butter. Or more oats.

I wasn’t going to starve. But that sense of play and taste sparked in me as I looked in the mostly empty freezer. I pulled out the gigantic Costco bag of green beans and threw some of them into a pan with thyme and–looking over at the spices I’d moved this morning–coriander. While those cooked, I pulled out the oats I’d not wanted, looked at them, looked back at the spices. Ah. I put about a cup of them in a bowl, added a forlorn 1/4 bag of finely shredded coconut that’s been in the freezer for close to two years, added a few shakes of curry powder and salt, stirred, and let it sit.

I need a little protein…hmm. I got a can of diced tomatoes out of the cupboard, pureed them, and in a small saucepan stirred them with a little garlic powder, coriander, and salt, putting it on a simmer. While it reduced to about half, I ate the now-done green beans. Then, I made patties of the oats mixture and fried them up. While they cooked, I put a big dollop of peanut butter in a bowl, blended in a spoonful of chili garlic paste, then incorporated the thick tomato sauce. If I weren’t out of coconut milk, a little would have been a no-brainer. By then, the patties were crisply done. So I ate…food, a meal, a meal I made.

And it was delicious.

And as I sat here enjoying the taste, I recalled all the dishes spun from nothing when I was out of most food and had to dig deep into the cupboards. My pumpkin soup. How we make hot cocoa (from being out of milk). So many. And now “Curried Coconut Oat Patties with Vegan Peanut Sauce.” So much yumminess made from empty. So much from nothing.

I thought of the past two years and work and relationships. So very often, I sit before the book’s manuscript, working hard, seeing the finish line so close, wanting to plow through it, and I sit there staring at it, feeling empty, with nothing left to give or say. And beyond the book, I’ve felt so drained of any emotions but grief and missing my mom that it feels like the power to love and be in people’s lives has been as fleeting and gone as food from those kitchen shelves.

But then, I looked at this meal I just ate.

It’s delicious.

And it came from emptiness. Those depths and forgotten corners, that space, yielded rich sustenance…and it tastes good.

And if this can happen, so, perhaps, even when I’m on empty, can I continue to write, create, and communicate…my job. And perhaps, even in the midst of the empty space, I can reach out, hug in, and continue to connect even more beautifully and authentically than I did in the midst of stocked shelves.

Empty may feel empty; it may even be empty.

But empty is not dead. And I am thankful for its gifts.

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Thunderstorm
blurting, Jené, process

Out of the Blue, a Poem for You

Thunderstorm

Some days, writing is like a laser beam: sharp, focused. Other days, it’s like a flood: deep, dense. This day, this morning, I woke with an emotional hangover. Yesterday–my second Mother’s Day without my mother–was heavy with unexpected grief, conflict, and affection. My children saved it, of course, as did the pie they baked for me with my (ever-Friend) ex, as did going through Mom’s shells together, telling stories, as did hugging each other in the aftermath of sugar and sand.

This morning, thankfully, a friend (this one) said to come to our favorite place (this one) to write. So I was saved from wallowing in that emotional hangover, from drowning. And writing happened. And it was like a flood today, ideas and fragments and shards of thought flowing out of my mind onto paper. And who knows where this originated (May we just let its origins lie, please, letting it be without the need to know, letting it be without expectation or even hope, though maybe finding origins in finally choosing life over joining my mother?), but here is one of those shards; a poem.

My Love shall be like Kansas
Jene’ Jackson, May 2014

My Love shall be like Kansas,
an open plain
an infinite space
upon which the sun of me
shall shine,
into which the rain of me
shall soak, tilth bursting new life,
across which the storm of me
shall rage,
shall gather its skirts to build the head of wrath up into the heavens
unleashing fury
wind water fire
oh, the fire
of lightnings past and future and Now
only Now,
bending blade
breaking bough
shattering windows behind which safety lies,
under which all others cower
in dark cellar holes
in the face of the flinging
lashing
furious
joy
of my love.

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story project may 2014
book news, events, Jené

A Story of My Mother’s Last Gifts, at The Story Project – TONIGHT

story project may 2014

A little over two years ago, I told a story from the summer I wrote The Oat Project for a program here in Colorado Springs called The Story Project. Like The Moth Radio Hour out of New York City, it’s live, local storytelling without a script. Tonight, on this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m going to tell another story, of my mom’s last lessons and gifts. There are two performances, May 9th and May 25th.

Getting this story out has been so. very. difficult. I will probably cry on stage. But if I can do this, can stand at a pulpit in front of almost 300 people to give my mom’s eulogy, then tonight will be fine. I’d love to see you all there. Please wish me luck. And love and kindness and joy to you all for Mother’s Day. Please hug your mothers extra for me. :)

Here’s that story from 2012: http://youtu.be/BAGlFpbnwHc

 

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blurting, Jené

Gigantic, Google, Macrosomatognosia, and Me

Attack_of_the_50_Feet_Woman

This post has no neat and tidy ending. It does have a soundtrack, though. Go here to listen to the musical version of these words.

It’s 11:38pm on “G” day for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge. I was determined to catch up and post today but got busy. So just now, I decided to go for it and write on the first “G” word that came to mind. It was “gigantic.”

Since childhood, I have occasionally experienced a strange sensation. It would usually be when I was going to sleep. Early on, I recall no cause, no recurring fear or anxiety. It would just happen. When I closed my eyes, it was as though radiating from the places where my body parts touched, I grew gigantic, universe-sized if I kept my eyes closed and continued to let my arm touch my leg, or leg touch the other leg, in endless variations. It was so scary. And though it happens less often these days, it hasn’t lost its pain.

In mulling over what I’d write on “gigantic,” I thought I’d Google (another G word) it to see if I could find an explanation. My Google luck is well-known amongst friends–ask me anything, and I’ll find it–but I expected this to be the time it failed me. Nevertheless, I Googled “feeling of being gigantic neurology.” And holy moly.

alice in house

It’s called macrosomatognosia and is a rare symptom, most often associated with migraines. It’s also called the “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome” (AIWS) from when she grew gigantic after drinking the potion. Well-known, researched and everything, there are papers on it and forums for those with it.

Over the last few years, as I’ve woken up and opened up, it’s felt like I’m becoming a real girl. And “down the rabbit hole” is often associated with a spiral. And The Oat Project has often felt like a potion to me. And I’ve discovered surprising ways that yes, I’m weird, but no, not the only one (especially in being a Highly Sensitive Person). And when I read the accounts of those with macrosomatognosia, I was–just now, mind you–floored. They described sensations exactly like mine, even “whole body pulsation” (sounds fun, but trust me, it’s unnerving).

Do I know what to do with this? Not really. I’ll probably research it a bit more to make sure I don’t need to “do” anything, but just knowing it’s an acknowledged condition helps to handle it and the sensations I experience more often. Cheers to Google, cheers to you, and may we all sleep well this night! Love and hugs, Your Ever Strange-but-not-the-only-One, Jene’

p.s. This is my “G” day entry for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge. I’m posting 6 days a week for the entire month of April, one post for every letter of the alphabet! This one is late, because traveling messed up my schedule. So stay tuned for the other catch-up blogs today and here on out, and check out some of the other 2000+ writers participating.

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