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doing good time

“Jen, I cannot talk to you right now.  I was sabotaged today.  I have to go.” 

I hang up the phone and sit at the counter for a moment thinking about what’s unfolding all around me.  A good friend in the hospital for mental health issues and other friends who feel much like me and the waves affect us all.  Who can I call now?  I can write.  I can go into my mind and sort through what it feels like to be two inches tall.  I think to myself about how we all have those we love and how we all hold back to cradle them gently in a heartspace that keeps them around.  Listen.  Just listen.  Eventually they come to that very idea that’s been gnawed by bottom teeth on a bitten tongue and lip.   I didn’t say what burned in my throat because it had to come from the choked throat of the love object.  The times when the words don’t come, when the lip becomes raw and red, are the times I write.  Wondering the whole time how many red and raw lips I’ve created around me.

I’m embarrassed and ashamed and become aware of my own stigma and the mountain I climb as one of my best friends does a stint in ye ol mental health jail.  She’s locked away somewhere in Massachusetts pumped full of drugs and unable to hear me when I tell her about “good time.”  Good time is doing what they say, not putting your paper towels in tiny bags, reusing your towels, asking to talk to a lawyer every 5 minutes.  Good time is nodding, taking your meds, remaining as quiet as you can stand, reading a book. Saying thank you.  But, she knows this.  She coached me through my longest stint of sanity this year. I read an article at 3:16 am about how it takes 11 times to leave an abusive relationship.  How do I start and stop to count when, like the mental palace in Mass, I’m in my own crazy farm of relationships. Forever going back to the big house of love pumped full of drugs.  I’m certainly not doing good time.

Free now, and another loss of meaning.  Deconstruction and analyzing pretty useless at this point.  In this present moment I feel pretty clear and I’m clear on what really helps me feel good.  Doing yoga.  Being quiet.  Reading.  Writing.  Helping others by listening.  Hearing a kid say “you are SO LONG!” Running so early in the morning.  Running more than 10 miles in the morning.  Not worrying about who I choose as my friends—mental illness ain’t mean nuthin.  Appreciating the weirdness in tiny spaces.  My truck and all it’s memories.  Doing good time is reading books about travel, discontinuing the hate of everyone and everything that is assumed to have created despair, diving inside, writing letters, moving the body, playing cards.  I can choose what I might do right now because there are a few feelings with which I can empathize. This unfolding is its own imprisonment and I can relate to those four walls.

I have to go.  I have to go away from whatever mental space has brought me here.  I don’t want to live my life scared of what one silly man thinks of me. I can still be so vulnerable and say I get so, so, anxious and angry.  I play the ice queen.  My closest friends are very odd and eccentric.  I really mess up with money stuff.  I yell when I get angry.  I grab cell phones, I posture. I’m embarrassed that I’m not smarter on paper. Most of my lovers do not please me.  I don’t trust anyone.  I’m working so hard on that last one.  Trust and love just melts away that anxiety and anger (rooted in hurt and fear), when I trust I become a goofball that’s excited for any time together, I listen and empathize, seek to understand, remain curious, speak clearly and softly, love gently and loyally. I’m very odd and eccentric, living in poverty, have a hole in my wall from punching the drywall in frustration, am worried about writing these words, but I know I am not sabotaged.  I can talk.  Right now.

“Calling it lunacy makes it easier to explain away the things we don’t understand.”

― Megan Chance, The Spiritualist

Addiction, Archetypes, blue collar, Capitalism, character study, Colorado, Community organizing, Death, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Faith, Fear, Gardening, Health Issues, introvert, Jail, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, Non-Fiction, poverty, privilage, PTSD, Relationships, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, social class, white collar, Yoga

titanium spoons

I’ve been wanting to write lately but notice I speak of the same things over and over in blog posts.  Losing a friend and lover, creating meaning out of the loss.  Gardening as a metaphor.  I went to writing group the other evening and was excited for a friend who is really shining in her writing.  There’s a few older eccentric men that come to our group and harsh her for picking out a little tavern to host our writing.  Small talk deemed a distraction, people turning into mosquitos.  I found myself in tears in church on Sunday listening to her sermon about riding her bike across the country.  I don’t feel the need to compare us any other way other than we are both on a journey.  Both writers.  Both searching.

I want so much to go down the rabbit hole of analyzing my past cycle with the old flame.  I think awful theories of subconscious creation of pain through other women, attacks, lies.  I think what was different this time was giving in a bit more to the freeze reflex.  I laid first on a plastic mattress on the floor and then a futon mattress and kept whispering “light as a feather, stiff as a board” while hands pressed all over my body.  I told myself to be quiet, that this might make things better.  I did not touch back.  I did not kiss.  I let it all happen and felt my stomach curl into knots.  I remembered parties of my youth sleeping on a carpeted floor in a trailer while some stranger pressed against me.  Paralyzed.

Instead of trying to make my demise all about cheating and lying, I can just default to values once again.  I don’t have many possessions and call myself a minimalist but I think survivor is a more fitting term.  I spent money like crazy in college and will forever suffer the consequences of my need to feel good…right now.  I sit on the couch in anxiety and watch an Amazon cart fill up with materials for solar power, titanium spoons, objects.  I stop to put down a spoonful of hillbilly beef soup I had made and laugh.  Why on earth won’t a regular spoon work?  Why do things need purchased?  Why so much time spent trying to figure out what to buy?  I see the cycle of capitalism and consumerism played out right in front of me  under the guise of “my land, my tiny home.”  Ownership.  Possession.

Despite the new rebellion against materialism the consumer mentality it still very much alive.  Still worried about kind and quantity.  Two titanium spoons, one for the ex and one for his guests.  Security sought in numbers all motivated by the anxiety that there may be some missing out of what’s going on.  Someone else might build a better tiny home, be more sustainable, have the best batteries.  Researched  lifetime warranties a little more lying naked on the couch in the morning.  Throw away cactus plants, throw away male marijuana plants, throw away people.  I learned most about what’s important inside a concrete room for three months.  One spoon works great and takes on many uses.  A toothpaste box becomes storage, toothpaste becomes a whitening agent for v-neck tees.  Stripped of identity and objects, my thoughts become my only possessions.  A true shift from the inside.

I still am teetering on that rabbit hole wondering if I was used for sex, unbending like a 2×4, noiseless like a spider.  As I shower I feel my heart jump as I mistake the soap bubbles for a spider.  I remember a game I created called finger spider so I could crawl my veiny hand tendrils all over the body of that same dude.  Not frozen all the time.  But still scared, seeing paper tigers and toy guns.  The last nail in the coffin became a pair of skis.  I watch the crazy eyes emerge–the same ones contained in a video with all actors high on acid.  Folks sure do get crazy over the things that help them escape.  I’ve gotten pretty crazy, too.  The skis were traded back and forth until eventually they have ended up in my truck bed.  Its hard to bicker over possessions (skis) not giving a shit about skiing.  Its hard to admit I’ve been fooled again.  And so I write.  About the same things over and over with or without distraction in the tiny tavern of my heart.

“To live fully, we must learn to use things and love people, and not love things and use people.”

― John Powell

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dark intellect

I have always trusted my brain.  It’s the one thing I can always count on.  I know I’m smart.  My parents thought I was smart and sent a weird red-bearded man to test my IQ in fourth grade.  I would become agitated that I was pulled out of class to be with a man who generally gave me the creeps.  He was a specialist I think, not a familiar figure in school and any interruption to my routine would distress my system but I always did what I was told.  That’s how God wanted it to be.  He asked questions about how I knew water was boiling.  Well because it bubbles, bro.  At the end of the cryptic visits I was pulled into the principal’s office.  “Jennifer, would you like to skip to 7th grade?” I was in fourth grade, about 5’9″ inches, fluffy black hair, big hips, and gigantic purple glasses.  God, no.  I’m a social pariah as is–I know that.  Please, no.

I stayed in the same grade and some of teachers didn’t feel I was living up to my potential.  My first “B” came in work ethic. Straight A’s in every other subject but more was expected of me.  I still don’t know my IQ to this day but clearly I wasn’t meeting the expectations of whatever that number proposed.  One day, the white bearded librarian came to our classroom to play a rousing game of chess against me while the entire class watched.  I wasn’t worried–Dad had taught me well and my patience and strategy didn’t quite get me to victory that day but a stale-mate that must of somehow reflected my place in the world–I was moving around my chess pieces in simultaneous offense and defense.  Smart enough to win, smart enough to not care.

Being intellectual is a gift.  I can think my way out of so many problems.  I can create a safe world in my mind and write stories of how my mind works.  I can mimic trauma in non-fiction.  I can metaphorically write about the details of my life connecting them to the bigger picture.  I see the nuances and also the bird’ eye view of life and philosophy.  I can contemplate God.  Somehow, I thought my intellect was a much stronger defense than it panned out to be.  I still have a hard time understanding some of the events that have happened in my life.   My brain was wired well enough to forget most of the bullshit.  This year my mind has turned against me and memories have come back.  Painful.  I thought I was smarter than that.

I walked into work one day and asked my co-worker who was a boxer about what happens when you get hit. I hadn’t been able to hear out of my right ear for four days.  During sex, my boyfriend had punched me so hard in the face I stopped being able to hear.  “It’s called boxers ear, Jen.  You should be fine.” This boyfriend and I were into some obscure shit.  We liked to listen to heavy metal and muse in our anti-social tendencies.  One time I lit a marijuana pipe red hot and pressed it into my thigh.  I asked him to choke me until I would almost pass out.  In the world of sex–these were not off the beaten path.  Folks have kinky sex way more often than we want to admit.  This was, for the most part, normal sexual behavior.  But, I didn’t ask him to punch me.  I didn’t know he would punch me.  He hurt me on his terms.  Weeks or months later, who knows, I ran sprinting back to my house after he had dumped me on the side of the road.  I ran and ran to get back to safety and the door came swinging open.  He would always find me.

My Dad died in 2008 and it fucked me up really bad.  I choose the words I am saying and fucked up isn’t strong enough.  My world imploded.  My true north ceased to exist.  I shacked up with a guy who’s name I can’t even remember.  I didn’t even remember he existed until this year.  Back in the college days of drinking and debauchery bars would often make special glasses for mixed shots–i.e. like a Jager bomb.  Plastic shot contained within a glass where Jager would go and then surrounded by Red Bull.  I don’t know how it all went down but I remember my nose and mouth being covered by the giant hand of some strong iron-worker from Arkansas as he watched my eyes turn red.  Before I passed out I smashed the pink plastic cup into the side of his head and felt the small plastic bits crumble in my hand.  Goddamnit, I was going to survive. I fell asleep next to him on an air mattress that night waiting for my inevitable arrest because he had choked me out again while I was driving a few days before.  Third DUI, second violent relationship.  Where the fuck was my brain.  How could someone so smart be so stupid.

This summer I met a very nice guy with whom I felt very connected.  He was long and lean and didn’t mind my quirks and didn’t seem to want to humiliate me during sex or choke me for no reason.  I am so desperate for love that I crave any attention with someone who sees my brain.  He saw and appreciated my intelligence and I felt we could play chess and talk of our family dynamics forever.  I attach to folks so strongly, without a daddy.  Without any role-models of healthy relationships.  He became my world as I had moved from my home in Wyoming where folks didn’t care I was burned, kicked, punched, choked probably because I had forgotten any of it had happened.  I was called Crazy Jen for so long I figured that’s what bitches like me deserve.  Shit talking.  Dirty looks.  Sometimes, the crazy went in my favor and back in the day I would get free drugs as long as I did them intravenously in front of the dealer.  See me fucked up.  See me with no brain.

All these memories came back in a hotel room in Canon City, Colorado.  “You are so fucking damaged, Jen.  I feel sorry for you.”  Ahh shit.  He was right.  I was damaged.  I didn’t remember those events that had happened.  But I deserved them, right?  I lashed out in anger when I was attacked.  When I was told that I wasn’t going to be in someone’s life because they didn’t want to have a “crazy girlfriend” I knew they were right.  I made someone burn me.  Punch me.  Choke me.  My crazy brought about violence in others.  I was playing this game of chess to the best of my ability and I was letting folks down. That fourth grade class of blank eyes stared at me and watched me falter with every move.   My work ethic was a “C” at best.  I wasn’t trying hard enough.  I was being lazy and smart and should be in the 9039320th grade of relationships, not the second grade running away every time I was called a stupid bitch.

This is what is so hard.  I’m smart.  I’m kind.  I’m a counselor.  I was a victim’s advocate for years.  But, these things still happened.  I still let into my life 3 very violent men who intimidated me.  Who physically abused me.  Who emotionally degraded me.  Yet I still see this as my fault.  I know I’m mean and cruel but I know what has happened to me.  I didn’t make it up but that’s also shady to me as well.  How could someone forget being punched, burned, kicked, and choked?  How could someone with so much sense end up in hotel room after hotel room being told what a horrible piece of shit I am?  How could someone who had been to the emergency room several times with sexually assaulted women end up in the snow one snowy night in February 2017 shaky and scared calling the police to please, please don’t come out because in Colorado in domestic violence calls, an arrest is mandatory?

I am doing the very best I can.  I just submitted a $960 bill for therapy starting in January before that cold February night when I remembered some childhood beatings that I still doubt. Because I trust my brain.  This brain has gotten me scholarships, offers to skip grade levels, exemplary marks on standardized tests, its reasoned its ways out of these places.  I still don’t know if I believe any of this was abuse.  I’m just a strong-headed, weird, negative, and perhaps hard-to-love person.  If I was sweet and kind in spirit as I feel in my mind then I would stop this cycle.  The only thing I want today is to call any one of these men to come over and embrace me and then tell me what a fuck up I am.  Yes, yes, second in words what I feel in thought.  I am fucking retarded, I am too much to handle, I am not worthy of a faithful man or of someone to sleep next to at night.  My brain has been hard-wired for torture.  Whether it be self-torture of this entire blog or of the words of any man who I’ve held dear telling me of my inherent worthlessness.  I think, I feel, my brain can no longer be trusted.  That knot in my stomach was right.  My sweaty palms, my hunched back.  My body knew what was about to happen.  But how could I leave the very thing that helped me to survive?  I can leave these men but how can I leave my mind?

I played chess the other day and struggled hard to explain how it’s played.  It’s through tact.  Foresight.  Observation.  Strategy.  Patience.  Willingness.  I think I can say I have been a victim of abuse.  But I won’t leave that statement at just that.  I have been a victim of my own mind thinking I was exempt from shitty relationships.  I am a strong woman with strong trauma and these two do not want to tango.  I received minimal support in this last abusive relationship and am pretty sure I was seen as the problem.  I get nasty in intimacy because intimacy means I will get fucked up.  So I give myself some grace.  But I have very little grace for how I acted in defense of my well-being.  I am still trying to live down some ruined relationships as I existed in months being told how I was the cause of any problem that happened in my life or in his life. So, I write this shit down to let it go.

I think I can trust my brain again.  Its thinking in terms of case conceptualization and in clinical terms to help my clients.  If I look to my own case I see many trauma responses.  I see a childhood of dysregulated emotions and an adolescence of numbing and substance abuse that stunted my emotional growth.  I see a 7th grader who really should be in 4th grade and is doing her best to fake it until she makes it.  Those things did happen.  And this time I will not let my mind forget.  I will nurture my mind to connect to my body and feel the violence before it happens.  I might not ever say out loud I was abused.  But I will write it down and think on what could be different.  Who I can choose next.  And eventually I will find the peace I need to once again feel proud of my brain.  The body part that just might save me, the organ that fires even when I’m asleep.  I am smart.  I am alive.  I have survived.

“Has he ever trapped you in a room and not let you out?
Has he ever raised a fist as if he were going to hit you?
Has he ever thrown an object that hit you or nearly did?
Has he ever held you down or grabbed you to restrain you?
Has he ever shoved, poked, or grabbed you?
Has he ever threatened to hurt you?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we can stop wondering whether he’ll ever be violent; he already has been.”

― Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Body Image, Colorado, Death, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Faith, Fear, Health Issues, Hinduism, Jail, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, object, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Universiality, Yoga

deity in blue jeans

I’m finally starting to feel myself coming out of the steel-brillo-fuzz of my mind these past few months—the unscheduled deep haze of summer never went away and routine as elusive as a sunset in a snowstorm. I’m embracing the instability and calling it creativity instead. Even though I feel my chest may collapse and I can’t eat—I wonder if I purposely sit in this juicy space longer than I should. My writing gets better, I hone in on the artist. Sorrow is not the enemy—it is the seed. I’m letting go of what I think others might think and doing work from my soul space. Do I still cry so much my eye skin feels like a poor toddlers chapped ass—you know it! But I let myself cry and sob and wail remembering an entire life void of tears. Remembering getting made fun of in jail for crying when I saw my best friend. You stupid pussy, Jennifer. Why don’t you just go cry about it. Stupid bitch. You are fucking retarded. Nope. This ain’t my narrative no mo’.

I’ve been training and delving back into the world of psychology and counseling and remembering what brought me here—the desire to show folks their own ability to change. To show them their worth. To show them they don’t need helping at all but just a reminder of their own divine nature. I’ve been steeped in solution-focused, brief methods as social work has a hard on for anything quick with an immediate result. I don’t mind stopping the bleeding so a family can assess the wound, but sometimes band aids won’t work. I’ve been seeing my own counselor and pretended to have a bad connection via phone as we started our session and she asks “what do you want to be different.” Well, shit, lady. That’s the thing. Nothing. I don’t want anything different, I want acceptance of what is. I want you to sit here and hold space for me as we enter this shadow together. Let me talk about abuse. Let me talk about addiction. Let me talk about love, dead daddy, my anxiety, my successes, my day. I will tell you what I need to. Trust me. I want to trust you.

I wonder if I will continue on in this counseling relationship and begin to reflect on the friends I have sought out during this real dark depression bullshit that came on strong April 2014 after my best friend hung herself.  Some avoid my phone calls and I know they need space. They call back when they are ready and they hear my soul. Some say I’m impaired. These are the ones who are in the field as well, but I wonder if perhaps they have not dealt with their own wounds. Please don’t be fearful of my despair. It is part of me. But because despair is bad, under, dark, other–a power differential is created where because I’m on the struggle bus, I must be less than. I don’t think so but I can’t explain what I need because it isn’t words. Its being. Its silence. Its my dark bowing to your dark. I let my emotions seep out like uncontrolled sweat and some folks really don’t like that body odor. This is where my work lies—feel the things but know we all feel the things. We’ve all been devastated in love. We’ve all lost everything we love in one way or another. We are more together than separate.

I know I like what I do when I think to myself—I want me as a counselor. Not in some weird twisted way, but I like the way I think without judgement or think in the big picture. I want someone smart enough to have my case conceptualization. Someone who is not me and can say “Dude, Jen. This is abuse. You know this. Think about Safe Project. Think about power and control.” Then when I say “if I wasn’t so anxious, clumsy, stupid, slow, mean, ugly, smart, mentally-ill, etc. then he would have loved me” that counselor won’t correct those statements but honor that person who thinks that and figure out how to rewrite that story. Those are some strong words. Those are some deep feelings. Let’s stay in this moment and feel where that comes from. Maybe from being just a little baby girl and not knowing. Maybe from being a big girl and knowing too much. Sit in this space with me until the other words and feelings come. “Dude, Jen. You are amazing. You are all those things you think but more so, you are love. You are loved. You love. This is all, this is everything, this is the end game.” Turns out, we are all our own counselors if we just listen to that tiny yet expansive voice inside.

 

“You are one thing only. You are a Divine Being. An all-powerful Creator. You are a Deity in jeans and a t-shirt, and within you dwells the infinite wisdom of the ages and the sacred creative force of All that is, will be and ever was.”
― Anthon St. Maarten

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wal-mart yoga

I ran into a friend last night and a few folks knew me from my work teaching yoga. I was able to talk out loud a bit about how I see western yoga as cultural appropriation and perpetuating classism, racism, ableism, extroversion, hegemony, and all other sorts of atrocities that we silently ignore in the modern American caste system.

Let me clear this up before I dive into an opinion piece: I do teach yoga. I do teach meditation. I call myself the “Wal-Mart of Meditation” for a reason. Yeah Wal-Mart is messed up, but I don’t have the privilege NOT to shop there. Most folks I know don’t. I didn’t plan it this way, but I am very particular about where I teach, who I teach for, and how I teach. In the 4 years I’ve dived into this spiritual realm, I’ve learned a few things about myself and yoga.

The first is—I doubt I will ever teach at a boutique brick and mortar studio again. I’m not a business person, hardly a capitalist, and would not ask others to do what I cannot do myself. I cannot afford an $18 yoga class. In 2009 when I got out of jail after several DUI’s, I had nothing. Some fellah at the soup kitchen gave me $20. The last thing I was going to do with that money was walk over to a studio to be confused by Sanskrit, incense, and a person who is trying to tell me everything is love and light. Bullshit. I just got out of jail and have no home. Life will never be all love and light so we can all surrender that fantasy.

Secondly, I hope to always teach at a community college. In my years of teaching I have NEVER encountered a person of color in a brick and mortar studio outside of one instructor and one teacher in training—both privileged socioeconomically. In my classes at the community college, I’ve had men and women of color, non-english speaking folks, folks with disabilities, folks struggling with obesity, children, teenagers, deaf and hard of hearing folks, folks who I let in because they could not pay, felons, drug-users—you name the area of marginalization and I’ve been able to recruit at least one person to try it out.

Before I prepare my speech for social justice lady-face of the year, let me relate that I, too, am a part of the appropriation of yoga. I am in the space of privilege. I am the subject that relates to the object of yoga. I’ve bastardized the heck out of yoga (i.e. Walmart Meditation) I’ve copied elements from a minority culture and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressed, stated wishes of representatives of the originating culture.

I do not take communion in a Catholic church. I do not attend Mormon seminary. I do not pray with Muslims. Why do I think it’s okay to teach yoga when I know nothing of Hinduism? Because—it’s all I’ve got. I want to show folks that the light exists so they can choose their lamp. I know I do not know the right way to do anything because the only right way is the authentic way in one’s own skin. That will look different for everyone.

I can reduce the harm be being aware of the roots of the practice, and giving credit where credit is due. I can respect and honor the religion of Hindu and the Eight-Limbed Path by shutting the fuck up when I enter a sacred space. I can become more sensitive to myself and others through intentional practice. I will have to practice my whole life because it will not end with a headstand, heck, it won’t even end in this life. It is important we understand what yoga is and why it was created so we can honor the practice, others, and ourselves.

“Do your practice and all is coming.”

― Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Business, Capitalism, Higher Education, Jail, Laramie, Micro Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, privilage, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection

day sixteen-thoughts on education (why I want my PhD)

Having obtained my bachelors in English as an undergraduate and my masters in Counseling as a graduate student, I would now like to concentrate on a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership.

I am especially interested in community college leadership, having been involved in leadership during all stages of my academic career.  I was a strong student both in my undergraduate and graduate program and was able to audit graduate courses in my undergraduate years in creative writing which I used as a mode of self-expression.  During my graduate years, I served on several committees and was president of Chi Sigma—the Greek honorary club along with serving as an advisor to the fraternity and sorority executive councils at the University of Wyoming.

I bring my unique understanding of groups historically under-represented in higher education as a formerly incarcerated female drug offender, and participant in Albany County Court Supervised Treatment Program.  Those with criminal backgrounds have often been excluded from higher education settings, if through nothing else other than financial aid which is jeopardized by drug related crimes.

I am fully committed to highlighting the experience of marginalized groups in higher education and am committed to creating diversity in higher education institutions which include open lines of access for all students in the spirit of community college.

My main professional and personal goals are the same—to advocate for individuals to empower her or himself to discover his or her own wealth of resilience and knowledge and to leverage these same traits for social currency and reform.  I obtained my masters in Counseling because I wanted to help people and soon thereafter realized that people don’t need my help but they need my advocacy and the enriching experience of education to realize their own worth and potential.

My brother became incarcerated when I was ten and since that time of fragmentation for my family I have been interested in leadership and social justice as it relates to incarcerated individuals.  Then, becoming incarcerated myself, I firmly believe that my access to higher education is what continues to give my life purpose and is what has kept me out of jails and prison since.

I know that this work is my life’s calling.  I have consistently advocated for underrepresented and marginalized groups and I still see higher education as the great equalizer helping to integrate formerly incarcerated individuals into our larger community.  I believe I will be most successful in creating access to higher education having obtained my own PhD and provide a living example of the transformative nature of education.  In addition, I can influence social currency and power that comes along with a PhD to develop and implement programs that will make access to higher education much more equitable.

With a doctoral degree, I will have both professional and academic knowledge that will enable and permit me to help create and pioneer programs in the state of Wyoming and the greater United States.  These programs will help to reform social policy, create stable funding sources, gather stories and narratives, promote collaboration and dynamic interaction between higher education and correction institutions and open up the national dialogue on access to education and help to change ideology surrounding criminal justice and education.

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day five and six-my proudest moment and what I’m most afraid of

I missed yesterday. That will happen! I went to the UW basketball game and its always neat to watch the sport I used to love so very much. (I used to make my dad VHS record every and any game in the college men’s championships, and lose my mind in the basement watching).

I was going to try and cleverly tie the two topics but I don’t have to be clever at all. My biggest accomplishment is directly related to my biggest fear. I thought about detailing my college degrees—I’m a first generation student and it was a good thing to get done but I didn’t walk in commencement for either my bachelors or masters. It’s not something my family really values. I’m not upset about that—these degrees are to leverage social currency to help others, not to tack on my wall.

After the two paragraphs of porch talk I’ll get into it—my proudest moment was graduating from drug court. Well, Albany County Court Supervised Treatment Program. Nothing has been harder in my life, I’ve never failed over and over so many times trying to get something right, and I’ve never been so happy to have my life back.

When I was younger, I didn’t picture myself living past the age of 29 and “live fast, die young” was a lifestyle for me. I truly feel like drug court changed my life. It was really new to me to be so crappy at something—I’m hardly the best at anything I try but with hard work and guidance I can complete most tasks. Not drug court. I relapsed all over the place, finding myself smoking meth with other drug court participants all of whom are in prison now.

When I graduated I wrote a few lines about each person in drug court and the people who helped me graduate—including my probation officer who became human to me, the bailiffs who were always more kind than necessary, my counselor, lawyer, and even the judge who I had gotten crosswise with on numerous occasions. I now count many of these professionals as colleagues and friends. They helped me to see my own worth.

And now to my worst fear. I fear I will relapse heavily and go back to jail. I fear I will decide one night of fun is worth throwing my life away. I fear my job will find me out and let me go because I am a liability. I fear that I am bat shit crazy and I am just kidding myself that I could ever be a professional and help anyone. This is why I am not using my degree to be a counselor. Who am I? Who am I to help folks when I feel I am walking a life tight-rope? I’m afraid of being alone forever, in a cell, lamenting what I could have been.

But, I refuse to let these fears motivate me all the time. Of course I’m human and they pop up here and there. I have shown myself and others I am capable of rising from my own ashes. I am capable of my version of recovery. Fear is no motivator and I’ve been crippled too long by what others might think. And so I blog about my past. I blog about my future. And I give thanks for the now.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

-Fran Herbert

Anorexia, Archetypes, Asana, Bible, Body Image, Bulimia, character study, Christianity, Church, Death, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Facebook, Faith, Family, Fear, Health Issues, Higher Education, Jail, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, object, poverty, privilage, PTSD, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Suicide, Trailrunning, Trains, Universiality, Wyoming, Yoga

day two (late)-20 facts about me

  • I used to hate sloppy joes. I guess they are okay now
  • I was 6 feet and a half inch at the age of 12
  • I used to study the bible 2-3 hours a day
  • I want to get my PhD in higher ed leadership even though I swore off school after my masters program
  • I love pizza so hard
  • I’m extremely insecure about my body and have spent years trying to help myself with this
  • My family has a long history of mental illness—but hey we are fun!
  • I used to be extremely shy as a child, not so much anymore
  • I would love to build a cabin in Canada or Alaska and learn mountaineering skills and live a more simple life and write, write, write
  • I’ve had disordered eating patterns in some form since I was 16
  • I wanted to go to the University of Montana so hard. Still kinda do.
  • I was supposed to play division 1 basketball, and I got injured
  • My mentor and creative writing guru said I was one of the best writers she had encountered—that friggin meant the world to me to hear
  • I love writing. Non-fiction. My life is rich with details and experiences
  • I was in county jail for 3 months. 1 month by myself. Shudder.
  • I love sticking q-tips in my ears.
  • I wear size 13 in womens shoes. Yeah junior high was bullshit.
  • I do things 100% and immerse myself in anything I’m interested in.
  • I love and hate Crossfit. I love running. I love and hate yoga. I love and hate the people who do these sports.
  • I have a younger sister and older brother. Janessa and Jesse. They mean the world to me.
  • I am extremely hard on myself and sometimes think I’m the most hideous person ever. But then I realize we are all crappy. We are all good.  We are human.
  • If you counted that was 21. I do what I want!
Archetypes, Body Image, character study, Death, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Facebook, Faith, Family, Fear, Health Issues, Higher Education, Jail, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, privilage, PTSD, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Universiality, Wyoming, Yoga

day one-the story behind my blog

I started my blog originally because I fancied myself a mildly talented non-fiction writer and I often am my most artistic during my darkest times.   The boyfriend I had at the time and myself named the original blog “New American Exile” as we both felt marginalized from American culture.  The blog went in conjunction with a zine we had started by the same name.  It fizzled out in one issue.  And that relationship got real abusive, real fast, and went down in flames more than fizzled.

I rose from the flames and wanted to bring back the blog because writing to me is so rhythmic, it helps me to notice all the details around me, to capture the face of a lover, to smell what only bloodhounds know of, to feel like a newborn baby.  It helps me to heal and to show others the rawness of human existence.  I started the blog under the name “fire or phoenix” in April of 2014 after I, the phoenix, had burst, once again, into metaphorical flames after ending a period of sustained sobriety.  My first entry:

i live in fear.  i live in confidence.  i chew the skin around my nails to shreds thinking about how i fucked it all up.  but we’ve all fucked it all up.  we are all fucking up together.  i’ve lost my words for months now and my yoga practice has fallen to the ditch where the beautiful wildflowers of summer grow, healing yarrow and miraculous dandelion.  there is much to be said for falling to the wayside with the wayside dwellers.  my life is not to overanalyze or to feel hurt by her or him but my life is to connect to others like misplaced branches of veins spurting blue and red blood because what is real is not gross.  what is felt is not wrong.  i am not here to feel sorry for myself and hate my existence because my thighs rub together.  whats really important, here.  whats really going on with my privilege.  whats most real right now is the rhythmic panting of my breath and steps as i run, run, run in no direction but simply closer to who i might be, who i really am, and the essence of us all.  today is the first and the last day, the beginning and the end.  today is god. 

This entry highlights my journey into trailrunning and my journey into recovery in which I allow myself to fuck up, to drink, to eat hamburgers.  I still find myself ashamed and embarrassed at my lack of self-control, but that is the old bird conceptualizing her life from a different space.  And so, as I constantly reinvent myself, I am a great many things.  I am the flames.  I am the bird.  I am.

“A mythical bird that never dies, the phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration”.

Master Lam Kam Chuen.

Christmas, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, Expansion, Faith, Family, Fear, Health Issues, Jail, Mental Health, Mindfulness, Nostalgia, PTSD, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Suicide, Trailrunning, Universiality, Wyoming, Yoga

I am in recovery, and I drink

An article about me recently came out detailing how I was able to recover from addiction to meth using yoga as a tool of recovery.  I used the drug almost exclusively intravenously everyday my senior year of high school and on into my twenties.  Mix in some blow, some pills, a bit of heroin.  All of this is true.  Another truth is that I’ve not used meth, pills, coke, or heroin in more than 7 years and I’ve not touched needles in as long.

But, I do drink.

In fact, I got pretty shitcanned on Christmas and spent yesterday hating myself watching as others posted this article about me detailing my three DUI’s and how I use yoga to help others.  I felt like a fraud and the folks from AA might have a thing or two to say about my version of recovery. But, I also knew where the desire to get schnockered was coming from.  My family became very fragmented in 2008 and I’ve spent almost every Christmas since alone. This is my work–to find peace in this space and create my own family.

So, to create forgiveness I googled the term “recovery is not abstinence” because this is what I have come to believe, this is one truth I have come to know.  This is true for me, and might not be for you.  That’s the thing your realize–truth can be relative.  And I think this is what has propelled me into living the most meaningful and vibrant life I’ve ever known.  Yeah, life has been crappy at times, and I own that I created it that way.

I found an article called “Reason” by Stanton Peele subtitled “Sobriety isn’t an abstinence fixation, it’s about having purpose.”  When you have purpose, stuff just falls into place.  I’ve never before had so much purpose in my life, I’ve never thought so much about the big picture, and I’ve never been so comfortable living in the gray. Through yoga, meditation, running, and writing I have found a way to express myself inwardly and outwardly.

What got me in trouble in the first place was living in extremes, maintaining all or nothing thinking and I became extremely uncomfortable in AA thinking I was one cocktail away from jail or death.  When in fact, I had maintained some moderate form of drinking for years until the death of my father which resulted in overuse of that same coping skill I had cultivated for a long time.  Looking back, it seems I was more suicidal than anything.  My Daddy had been ripped from me.  I did what I knew, I did what I could to feel better.  I drank, I smoked, I shot up.

I do often wonder if I am justifying, but I know in my heart that so many more folks with addictions might be able to find recovery were it not the constant pursuit of something that seems unattainable.  Even AA knows, we are only as sick as our secrets.  Those of us who have overused substances are far from saints.  But, we are not social pariahs.  We are not diseased.  We like to feel good.  And that’s the human condition.  We all have disassociated in one way or another to get away from uncomfortable feelings.  This is how humans work.

On April 25th, 2014 I broke my sobriety streak and had a beer after a close friend had hung herself.  Perhaps not the best coping skill but a completely human way to cope.  I let myself begin to drink into summer particularly after long runs and I would refuel with a Coors and a burger.  It was actually very relaxing and rewarding.  The running had become like meditation for me and to chill and have a beer after the run gave me space to see what moderate drinking felt like, what it looked like, and how it can be a very normal process.

I had been told in AA how NOT normal I was.  Oh well Jen, you drink, so clearly you are immoral.  You have no control.  You are an addict.  You can’t handle life.  I don’t really think of myself as an addict at all.  It’s no longer a part of my identity and not how I like to refer to myself.  I am a yogi, a teacher, an aunt, a sister.  But I’m no longer an addict.  Or alcoholic. This is one of the many reasons that I don’t find much solace in AA.  There are other reasons of course, but I am an empowered woman.  I am no victim of alcohol, drugs, or my circumstances.

Alcoholics Anonymous, while one of the most successful recovery programs in our recent history, has appropriated the term sobriety.  The program dominates our thinking about addiction and the only way sobriety is achieved is through complete abstinence.  To me, this seems like a complete set up.  For most, it’s an unattainable standard that may be reminiscent of why many of us started using in the first place.  To try and be something we were not, to try to maintain a facade.  It aggravates all or nothing thinking.  And it causes huge fall outs and huge relapses rather than just a shitcanned Christmas.

To me, recovery means that I love my body enough to realize that I cannot drink all the time.  It’s listening to my belly when it says that hard liquor is no good for me.  It’s having water with beer because I’m using the liquid carbs to recover.  It’s having purpose at my job I value enough to not show up hungover.  Its service work to others in my community who are in the grips of addiction.  It’s my values, my plans, my life goals.  I’ve come too far to fall victim to the fuzzy life I lived previously.

There is more than ample evidence that shows addiction is a solvable coping problem rather than a chronic recurring disease.  Being positively engaged with life encourages better coping skills and natural recovery. A number of long-term studies support this idea. Some positive engagement in my life includes a few beers at the local pub.  Sometimes wine with a fancy dinner.  I don’t have to wear a scarlet letter.  I can choose moderation.  I’ve often felt the only space where anyone is shamed for drinking is the rooms of AA.  It’s AA that plans the seeds of distrust and doubt.  Your own mind becomes the enemy when it is the exact tool that can heal you.

And so, I tell folks I’m in recovery.  I attend counseling to manage my anxiety and depression that have led to substance abuse in the past.  I perform service work at least once weekly to help impart tools that keep me healthy and engaged in life.  I create space for others as they work through relapses and we all begin to cultivate forgiveness of ourselves and others.  And, to me, recovery is simply self-love.  It’s the highest form of grace.  It’s accepting ourselves exactly where we are.  And then we can begin to change.