SoCS: JC’s Confessions #25

When I saw that Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was “key,” I knew that this would be another intersection with JC’s Confessions, my occasional series in which I “confess” to things that aren’t really sins but that I feel vaguely guilty about. (I’ll paste the usual intro to JC’s Confessions at the end of this post.)

I sometimes wear my Phi Beta Kappa key when I am nervous about a challenging meeting as a confidence booster. It’s on a necklace chain, so it isn’t that noticeable and, if someone does notice it, they are likely to think that it’s just my sorority or my husband’s fraternity key. (This would only be possible if the person doesn’t know us. I went to Smith College, which does not have sororities. B’s university did have fraternities but he would never have considered joining one.)

I think the origin of my feeling guilty about it is that I’m wearing it as a secret reminder that I am intelligent in the best liberal-artsy way, that I can use those skills to delve into new terrain, and that I can contribute to solutions to complicated problems.

That I want my membership in Phi Beta Kappa to be a secret is the problem.

So, I was always a good student. I was valedictorian of my high school class. I graduated summa cum laude from Smith College, which, at that time, placed me in the top 1% of my class. I made first election to Phi Beta Kappa in the fall of my senior year.

There is somehow in the United States an undercurrent of suspicion of people who are “smart.” Having been a good student is taken to mean that you must hold yourself above others. This is not at all true of me but others may assume it is and react in a hostile way.

I nearly always kept my little secret undetected. The one time someone noticed and commented on my key was when I was serving as a parent volunteer on a school district committee doing curriculum work. It was daunting for me to be the one person who was not a professional educator. We did do training together for the work but I had to rely on my personal skills and intellect rather than on pertinent academic background in education. Thus, my need to boost my confidence with my key.

During a break, one of the teachers commented on my Phi Beta Kappa. I probably blushed! In retrospect, it shouldn’t have surprised me, as he earned a couple of degrees from Harvard himself and would certainly have known those Greek letters when he saw them.

It was nice to have someone in on my secret that day, someone who understood what it meant without thinking I was being a show-off.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve worn my Phi Beta Kappa key. My life has been much more contained, especially since COVID appeared.

Maybe I’ll wear it someday not as a confidence booster but as a celebration of my now long ago academic past.

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, then a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

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As previously mentioned, Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “key.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/08/19/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-20-2022/

SoCS: too much

I am awash with too many emotions to SoC today, because, well, reasons…

This JC’s Confessions post from earlier in the week gives some clues.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “wash/awash.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/07/29/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-30-2022/

JC’s Confessions #24

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, then a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

Over the many years of caregiving and volunteering I have done, people have often advised (admonished) me to “take care of myself.”

I don’t think it is something that I do very well.

I do try. I eat well (usually) and sleep (generally not so well, but not for lack of trying). I do my physical therapy exercises most days and speak with my counselor on a regular basis. (I love getting massages but the pandemic and other complications have interfered with what used to be a regular part of my self-care plan.)

I admit that the amount of stress, grief, and loss has been high for a lot of years. I would sometimes joke in recent years that it was too late for whatever stressor to give me gray hairs, although I notice that my eyebrows are beginning to turn silver and that my facial lines seem to be more indicative of sadness, unless I am actively smiling. (Or maybe this is straight-up aging, rather than stress-induced?)

(Hmmm…wonder if my extensive use of parentheses in this post is a form of denial, distancing, or hedging?)

But here’s the thing. When people want you to “take care of yourself,” the subtext is often to put yourself first, which is not my nature as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I will always care about what people close to me are experiencing and try to do whatever is in my power (and sometimes attempt what is not really in my power) to help. I also feel compelled to serve my neighbors, whether near or far, which, given the state of the US and the world, is a huge task, but I try to shoulder my tiny sliver of it as best I can.

It’s a lot.

I can hear some people’s brains clicking with (totally valid) thoughts about boundaries and such…

And maybe I’ll manage that wisdom if I am gifted with enough years.

Or maybe I will always be “guilty” of prioritizing the needs of others before my own.

Or maybe that is just who I authentically am.

JC’s Confessions #23

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, then a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

National Poetry Month Edition:

I’ve been struggling to regain my sense of myself as a poet.

This is ironic because, when I first turned to poetry as a means of self-expression ten or so years ago, I didn’t have any problem calling myself a poet. I was writing poems, so I was a poet. I remember early on reading a short essay from a person who had an MFA in poetry, had published at least one book, and was editing a poetry journal, but couldn’t bring himself to say that he was a poet because he wasn’t suffering for his art. I was perplexed.

I managed to still think of myself as a poet through the labyrinth of dealing with years of family health and caretaking issues. I was still writing and workshopping and doing residencies with the Boiler House Poets Collective and doing sessions with the Binghamton Poetry Project and Broome County Arts Council. I wasn’t submitting to journals as much as I should have, but I did put together two manuscripts, one chapbook and one full-length collection, which I started submitting to contests and publishers. In recent months, I have also been submitting individual poems to journals more often.

Perhaps I had forgotten the level of rejection that is inherent in the submission process. Some of the recent rejections I have received with manuscripts have chosen one for publication from a field of 800-900. I mean, do the math. Somehow, though, even knowing that the odds are not remotely in my favor has not shielded me from questioning whether I am a publishable poet, or even a poet at all.

Meanwhile, several of my poet-friends have published or are in the process of publishing their first books. I’m very happy for them and buy and help promote their work but it makes me wonder what is wrong with me that I’m only garnering a long list of rejections. What does it say about me that, when I see publication credits for other poets, I can often mentally tick off which of their presses have rejected me?

Things are better these past few weeks. The publications of my work for an Ekphrastic Review challenge and in Wilderness House Literary Review buoyed me through the latest round of journal and manuscript rejections that the spring has brought. I’ve participated in National Poetry Month projects with the Broome County and Tioga Arts Councils. Binghamton Poetry Project has been having their spring workshops, so I’ve been working on craft and writing from their prompts, once or twice a week. I’ve even gotten several unsolicited comments from my blog posts, saying that I am a good writer, which is somehow still encouraging of my sense as a poet. Writing is writing, whatever the form.

The question is whether I can keep my re-discovered sense of my identity as a poet from being buried by the avalanche of rejections that are sure to come. When I first set a goal of publishing a book by the time I was sixty, a goal that I failed to meet, I told myself that it didn’t matter if I ever published a book. After all, it’s not that I write for a living.

It would be best if I can get back to concentrating on reaching people with my work within my community sphere. I do consider myself to be an accessible, community poet. If I can do that, then I could look at publishing in a broader context as a bonus if it happens, not as a measure of my worth as a poet.

Please remind me when I am in doubt again.

JC’s Confessions #22

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I have never seen any of The Godfather movies and hope I never do.

I have seen (more) clips (than I care to) enough to know that it is way, way, way beyond my level of tolerance for violence.

As an Italian-American on my mother’s side, I shudder at the stereotyping of being part of the Mafia when that is such a small segment of the Italian-American experience, certainly totally divorced from my family’s life in rural New England.

Because this is the fiftieth anniversary of the first film in the trilogy, there have been pieces in the media galore about the significance of the films, the references that have become part of modern parlance, and, surprisingly, a lot of people claiming that they understood what it was to become an adult because of The Godfather.

I think I managed that last part on my own without the movie, thank you very much.

I know that love and commitment to family are eminently possible without violence and that threatening or injuring or killing someone is not the way to solve problems.

In the movie You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks’s character, in trying to coach Meg Ryan’s character about business, quotes lessons from The Godfather frequently, including “It’s not personal – it’s business.”

And maybe that is the root of the problem for me – and perhaps the reason I would not make it in the business world. To me, everything is personal. If I’m going to watch a movie, it will affect me personally and violence, especially fictionalized violence, is not something I want to let rattle around in my mind.

So, perhaps, I have broken my own JC’s Confessions rule in that I don’t actually feel bad about not having seen The Godfather. Let’s just consider it my own tiny, countercultural protest.

(Cue dramatic music)

SoCS: JC’s Confessions #21

[Non-stream of consciousness introduction. Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about the first thing that come to mind from the phrase “let go.” I drew a blank at first but then this topic floated to the surface, probably because it was on my list of things to write about in my series, JC’s Confessions, so what follows is the very dangerous intersection of writing stream of consciousness on a difficult topic. I do use a standard opening to explain JC’s Confessions, which will follow as a block quote before launching into the SoC portion of the post.]

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I have trouble letting go of guilt.

Even when I’m feeling guilty about something that is not my fault.

Even when it’s something I couldn’t possibly have known. Or remedied.

I’ve had family members diagnosed with conditions which took years to figure out, yet I’m the one who feels guilty/responsible for not having figured it out sooner, even though I am not a trained health professional, just a family member and caregiver.

It would have taken asking totally implausible questions to figure some of these diagnoses out. For example, it turned out years later that one of my daughters’ migraines had started as a child with visual migraines, which manifested as things changing colors. Who would think to point out to their child that, in almost all instances, color is a fixed attribute of an object? Yet, I feel guilty for not having realized this problem before the more serious later intractable migraine that took six months to diagnose, two more to break, cost her a semester of high school, and would later prove to be only a small part of a larger diagnosis of fibromyalgia, now known as ME, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Never mind that it took the doctors ten years to figure it out from the time symptoms first appeared. As a mother, I thought I should have known and been able to alleviate her suffering and help her.

I know that this guilt is totally irrational. I know that my family doesn’t hold me responsible for not being a super-doctor or God or some all-knowing being and getting them help sooner, but still, as hard as I try, there is a vestige of guilt that I can’t shake.

(I can hear those of you who were raised Catholic thinking that this is par for the course of Catholic guilt, although I think it is probably not only that.)

One of my more recent struggles with this problem is the fact that it took months of suffering before my father, known here as Paco, was diagnosed with heart failure, only days before his death. I tried and tried to get the health professionals at his facility to figure things out and treat him appropriately but I failed, robbing him of the peace, comfort, and dignity he deserved in his final months.

It hurts.

I know that I shouldn’t feel guilt on top of the pain, that I’m not at fault, but I still can’t shake the underlying sense of responsibility, failure, and guilt.

Maybe, eventually, I’ll be able to let it go.
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January and/or Stream of Consciousness Saturday! (I promise it does not have to be as fraught as this post unfortunately is.) Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/28/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2022-daily-prompt-jan-29th/

JC’s Confessions #20

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I hate exercising.

I can almost hear people saying that I haven’t found the right activity or I will feel better once I’m doing it or it will give me more energy or some other positive thing about exercise that I’ve heard before, but no.

While I do enjoying walking with someone in pleasant surroundings, I do it for the conversation or the setting, not because walking is good for me or inherently pleasurable. I don’t find that I feel accomplished or energized after exercising, just more tired, although that doesn’t translate into sleeping better. I am not a very kinesthetic person. I’m more cerebral and am happiest in quiet, calm places.

There have been long periods of my life where I have made myself exercise nearly every day, so it’s not that I can’t do. I just have never been able to get above the “barely tolerable” feeling about it.

I admit that, since my father’s passing last September, I’ve been less active. I’m a bit out of condition, as I could tell by how difficult it was for me to keep up with everyone else on our recent trip to the UK. I’m not sure how much I could improve through a concerted attempt to exercise more or how much is that, at 61, I can’t expect to be as strong as I was two or three decades ago. I have an appointment with my doctor next week and will ask what she thinks.

Meanwhile, I am back in physical therapy for a recurring health problem. I’m trying to be good about doing my at-home exercises, but that may actually compromise any attempts to try to do even more exercise, as there are limits to how many things I can make myself do, as I confessed here.

I don’t expect, though, that, somehow, I’m going to suddenly find joy in exercise, which, in a culture obsessed with sports and fitness, is something close to a sin.

I will, though, dislike aside, try to do what I must to keep going for as many years as I am able.
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/14/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2022-daily-prompt-jan-15th/

1500 (depending how you count)

I am not at all diligent about my blog stats, but WordPress continues to throw some info into my notifications, so I know that I’ve just reached 1500 WordPress followers!

My blog page itself says I have 1,682 followers, which includes followers by email, twitter, and through my Top of JC’s Mind Facebook page.

Either way, yay!

I know that only a few dozen people read my blog on any kind of regular basis and fewer than that comment online, although it still takes me by surprise when I get comments in person from friends, as though I think only cyberfolks read my blog.

Whoever you are, whether you read regularly, occasionally, or just this one post, I’m grateful for your visit and invite you to return whenever you can. This is my 1,561st post, so, whether your interest is poetry, politics, the environment, spirituality, family life, health, or generalized musings, you can probably find something of interest in my archives.

This year, I’m hoping to pay more attention to my “JC’s Confessions” and “How does JC’s Mind Work?” series.

Admittedly, that involves my mind actually working. These last few years have been such a struggle as our family has dealt with the loss of the last three members of the elder generation, B’s mom, known here as Grandma, and my parents, known here – and in real life – as Nana and Paco. Grief still has me feeling scattered, but I’m trying to regain some focus. Maybe, eventually, I’ll even return to having some kind of a predictable rhythm to my days, including writing time. It’s been ages since I’ve had that.

We’ll see.

Whatever happens, I’m sure I will eventually put it into words here at Top of JC’s Mind.
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Learn more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/02/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-2nd-2022/

JC’s Confession #19

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I am still on Facebook and feel guilty about it.

I’m confessing this now because it is top of mind after reflecting on Ellen Morris Prewitt’s post on leaving Facebook. Ellen is an amazing author, blogger, community volunteer, and former lawyer from the American South. She shares her insights on a range of topics and has recently published a number of powerful posts about race and racism. I urge everyone to visit her blog and subscribe.

I confess that, despite my dismay over Facebook spreading false information, their exploitative business model, and the vagaries of their newsfeed algorithms, I am staying with the platform for now.

I’ve tried to make my own Facebook experience as insulated from harm as possible. I use Social Fixer, which allows me to hide sponsored posts, political posts, and other parts of the page that I don’t want to see. I spend almost no time scrolling through my newsfeed and do not use Facebook as a news source. I do automatically send posts to my blog page and then link them to my personal timeline for added visibility, although I remain annoyed at how few people can actually see my posts due to the aforementioned vagaries of Facebook algorithms.

I admit that part of the reason I stay with Facebook is that there are people with whom I am connected only via Facebook and don’t want to lose touch with them. I also am one of the administrators for a private Facebook group for my college class and don’t want to abandon that responsibility.

I know those are personal excuses that in no way forgive my responsibility in participating with a platform that causes harm. I do favor policies and regulations that will make Facebook a safe, honest cyberplace.

I’m probably hopelessly naïve to think that that is possible.

But that is, perhaps, a confession for another day…

JC Confessions #18

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I do not know how to apply make-up.

Other than the fact that I couldn’t teach my daughters how to do it, this has not been a hardship in my life. I’m comfortable with my natural look.

My main experience with make-up dates back to high school, when I was in some musicals. We had to wear make-up so that we didn’t appear washed out by the harsh lights and distance to the audience. This generally meant very heavy eyeliner and some blush, which looked good from far away and comical up close. Once, when I was playing Sister Sophia, one of the older nuns in The Sound of Music, I sported black lines on my face to make me look older. I remember getting comments that I looked good that way, which I chose to take as compliments of how I would look as I aged rather than criticism of how I looked at seventeen.

The thing about not wearing make-up that does bother me sometimes though is the association that many people make that if a woman does not wear make-up, she is “letting herself go.” While it’s true that I don’t wear make-up, I am not unkempt. While I understand that many women will not go out in public or attend video meetings without wearing make-up, it doesn’t mean that those of us who choose to present our natural skin to the world are less competent, committed, or caring than they.

Make-up is also touted as a way to “look younger.” I prefer to look, well, how I look. Admittedly, I am not good at guessing how old people are. I’m now sixty, so this is what 60 looks like for me.

I wonder if my long-ago teen classmates would think that Sister Sophia was sixty and I look like her now…

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