Your Reputation Preceeds You. 

August 27, 2016

I was known as a fighter. In my teens, my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and even into my 50’s people have seen me as someone who would not shy away from a confrontation. I was the truth teller. I once picked a fight with a robot at an Auto Fair. 

Let me tell you, that person, if she ever was, no longer exists. Truly. I raise the white flag. You can knock me over with a feather. 

I might have a bit of fight left for causes bigger than me. For Black Lives Matter, for equal rights, for my child. But for anything personal? Feel free to just take what you want from me. I am not thinking about revenge, about vindication, about getting back at anyone. I do not wish anyone harm. I don’t imagine in my wildest dreams hurting anyone. I was never the sort to be interested in throwing a punch anyway. I used words to fight. 

Still this reputation follows me. I am begging you, let this image of me go. I was never really that person and I am less that person now. Have at me. I surrender. 

To See or Not to See

August 11, 2016

skinny me

Too see or not to see.

To seek help or

soldier on, chin up, through this deep groove in my life.

That is the question.

I have waffled for months, trying to decide whether or not to go back to my therapist. I adore my therapist, but that isn’t a good reason to see him. When I saw him last October, there was no question. I made that call, sobbed through three appointments, and told him I thought I would be able to manage, to be okay.

The relationship between therapist and patient comes with strict rules, mostly to protect the patient, who is vulnerable. I trust this man, and he trusts me. When I told him at the the end of that third session I felt I could carry on, he trusted me. I’m not so sure now we were right.

I checked on line to see if I qualified for seeking help.

I actually look good on paper.

I sleep.

I take care of my appearance.

I can do my job (well).

My house is reasonably clean.

I don’t cry every day anymore.

All good.

Still, I am not quite myself. Mostly it is a food thing. I seem to have developed a bit of an eating disorder, which is kind of funny. It’s funny because when I was in my 30’s, and considerably chubbier, almost all my friends were gay men. Once, when I was meeting them for dinner, or a frolic, Chris said I looked a bit heavy. I was mortified. From then on I trained them to say, every time we got together, “Jessica, You’re looking a little anorexic.”

Now the word some of my friends use is “gaunt”. I have my own private reason for not eating much and that reason still exists. But, basically I am fine.

Thus the waffle.

If I could just eat the waffle, I’d be set.

 

 

Six Days

June 28, 2016

 

image

I have a six day residency right here in Cranston, RI. I didn’t have to apply for this opportunity. There were no fees. I didn’t have to write a statement about why I need the time and how it would change my career.

I  had only to convince myself that I should not feel guilty even though there is no prestige attached to this residency.  Making the decision was the hardest part, but is done. My shifts have been filled.

I have been rejected this past year for grants and residencies from some of the best. The MacDowell Colony, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the R.I.S.D. Musuem, and the always reliable for rejection, RI State Council on the Arts. I have written statements for applications that have made me cry. It wasn’t enough.

I’ll have to walk my dog. I’ll do the wash and vacuum. I’ll water my flowers and grass. I won’t have anyone fixing me breakfast and dinner, nor will any baskets of lunch be left outside my studio door. I won’t have the built in community of like minded people. But I’ll  wake to day after glorious day of hours to be a full time artist.

It’s been a bruising year for me. But there is this:

Dear Jessica, congratulations. I look forward to seeing what you’ll do when you have six days to do what you love.  Have a wonderful time. 

My residency will begin July 3rd and end at the end of July 8th.

Six days. Congratulations Jess. You’re in.

 

 

 

Good-Ness

June 4, 2016

good – Simple Definition of good

  • : of high quality

  • : of somewhat high but not excellent quality

  • : correct or proper

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary



I have been thinking about what people mean when they say so and so is a GOOD person. It seems to me that a lot of people confuse being good with being polite, non confrontational, and fairly conventional. I think I am GOOD, but a while back I learned that a few people did not. They not only believed that I was not good, but that I had done something that was BAD. Ever since, I have set out to prove my goodness. I think I have been successful to a degree, but it has come at a cost.
I thought that in spite of the fact that I am known to rant, to confront, to engage, most people could easily see that I was good, and that I would sooner harm myself than another other living creature. I was very wrong. I had to face the fact that among my friends I was accepted, but out in the world, beyond my bubble, people found me to be formidable, and even a little scary.
If I use the Merriam Dictionary definition of GOOD, I don’t fit. I suppose I am of high quality, depending on what rubric you use. At least I am smart. At least I have a high i.q.. I think I am:
: of somewhat high but not excellent quality.
I am unsure of whether I am “proper”.
I have to accept the fact that people can’t see inside of me. So, I am more quiet now. I am  more afraid to be myself. I have made myself smaller. None of these traits has made me a better person. I hope they have made it easier to see the GOOD bits of me. 
In an ironic twist, making myself smaller has made it impossible for me to donate blood, which was one of my favorite do good activities. 
My  goal is to figure out a way to be the fighter, the catalyst, the non conformist, but also survive in my world. People who have those traits are my heroes. The late, great Muhammad Ali, John Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, union organizers, protesters, people who refused to name names. I’m not sure I can do both. I have not succeeded so far, for sure. 
I am also trying to understand why I need to prove myself to these people who barely know me. Why is their opinion so important to me?
I am good. I have no proof of this, but I hope my actions speak. 
My dog Alice is good. She is lucky. Even when she is naughty we give her hugs and kisses and tell her she is a good girl. And she is. Anyone can see it.
Alice

What Remains.

April 14, 2016

I noticed my mother’s memory was seriously slipping in October of 2012, but I know there were signs before that. She knows me and my two brothers, and my husband, their wives. She knows our c…

Source: What Remains.

Being Here (Who I am, going)

March 22, 2016

Well, if it is any comfort and I doubt that it is, I am Jessica Rosner failure, without any of the substantial reasons to think so that you have. But maybe neither of us are failures. Really.

here we are going

Charles Walter Smith, blogging diarist.

This is a post about my over-sharing. Sort of. I am happy when people remark upon my honesty, my willingness to expose my vulnerabilities and the ups and downs of my journey. I also feel like a fraud.

Charles Walter Smith, liar.

Last night I was watching the news. Lie. I was doing the dishes and cleaning up after having made a delicious gluten-sugar-additive-free dinner during which process I was half-listening to the news being watched by my sister and niece in the next room. The GOP front-runner was spouting more of his outrageously specious blather, pontificating unchallenged by the newsperson, bloviating bogus “facts” he was clearly making up as he went along. I said to my sister and niece, “Holy crap, that’s what I do — make things up as I go along, and, just like that lunatic, I actually believe what I’m saying…

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Unfortunate Timing.

February 1, 2016

broken There was a television show I liked very much called Once and Again. It was a quiet show, basically a family drama. In one of the last episodes of the series, a character named Karen, who has had a rough time of it, gets very depressed. Unable to help herself alone, she eventually seeks the help of a therapist. It’s a slow process, climbing back into life, but she does it. One day, near the end of a therapy session, she laughs about something inconsequential, and she knows she will be okay. She knows she will be happy. But before she has a chance to announce her return from the dark side to her family and friends; before she has time to enjoy the lightness of being she has worked to achieve, she is hit by a car.

This was on my mind last night as I struggled to feel comfortable enough to sleep with my recently broken shoulder.

I’d spent the last 4 months trying to regain my sense of joie de vivre. I had been so sad, so crushed by an unexpected event and for a while there, even though I knew I would be okay, it seemed to be taking much longer than it should have. I was scared of never feeling really joyful again.

Then, like an unexpected delivery of flowers, there it was. I felt a surge of inner strength, a desire to move forward and a belief that I could not only heal, but be BETTER. Feeling this was was joyful in and of itself. I’d come home during an 8 hour shift to walk Alice, check e mail, and head back to work. It was dark, but not the dark of December. It was cold, but not icy cold. I was happy to walk my dog and I was enjoying the pop tunes playing in my ear thanks to my trusty old i pod. I was aware that I felt happy the way you are aware of health after a long illness. Alice and I were just a few houses from our own red door. There was some residual snow and ice from Rhode Island’s one real snowfall, but for the most part the remaining patches were almost pathetc. They certainly were no match for this new me, drunk on happiness. I had boots on, with treads. My left hand held Alice’s leash and my right hand was in my coat pocket, wrapped around the I pod. I stepped on one of those small spots of ice. I lost my balance and fell forward. I knew I was broken.

This is the first time in my life I have ever broken a bone. It is the humerus, a common break according to Google. During that four month period when I was so sad, I kept hoping for some small something bad to happen to me. Nothing too serious, or too long term. But something that would allow me to have time to cry, to be weak without being seen as weak. I wanted a little t.l.c., a little extra kindness. I craved a chance to just step out of my life for a few days. It’s ironic then that on this day when I was glad for my strength and resolve, I was taken out by a 6 inch circle of ice.

There is no moral to the story. It was an accident. My plans for moving forward are put on hold. I did not break my arm because I was under stress. I broke it because I fell on cement. I know I’ll be able to resume my plans when my bone heals. I was happy and that happiness is not going away. In spite of the pain I have now, and the weeks of recovery ahead of me, I know that happiness is inside of me. It just has to wait a bit longer to reveal itself. I can wait.

 

2016

January 10, 2016

There are many things I have not written about in a while. Let me take this opportunity to recap a bit. It is the anniversary of the death of my father, which always makes me reflect and reassess.

My mother: People often ask “how is your mom?”. It’s a tricky question. Essentially she is okay. She is losing more and more of who she is, which is to say, her memory. She is unable to follow the plot of any television show, but she has the television on all day long. She has been reading Blue Nights, by Joan Didion, for around two years, as this is the book she was reading when she really started exhibiting signs of dementia. She knows her immediate family, and a few other people who have remained close to her. Her caregiver situation is more stable. A person I call Saint Gloria, because to me, she is a saint, moved in with my mother,  to see her through this disease, or whatever it is. Gloria gave up her life to give us peace of mind.

Blue Nights

My mother smokes all day. She defies science. She is 85. I visit her at least once a month. It is never easy though some visits are better than others.

I miss who she was.

 

Art: I had a solo show last year. It was a nice experience. It was out of the way, in Newport at St. George’s H.S., the school where there is now a scandal. I showed 64 pieces, including embroidery, drawings, and paintings. It was a sort of retrospective. I felt so happy to be among the roster of artists who have exhibited there.

After that show ended I started a new series call Manuscripts. They began  as drawings of random shapes and calligraphic marks on a page surrounded by gold, but after something happened to me, which for now must remain SECRET, the Manuscripts became illustrations of the event.

IMG_1588-0

Manuscript: Betray

IMG_1581

Manuscript: Secret

I like them. I found them helpful, cathartic, and also a productive way to deal with something that remains very painful. I would like to make them into a small book, but as I was turned down for a couple of grants and because I don’t earn much money and because much of that money goes to actual living expenses I am not sure how to go about making my book. I am looking into it.

I am still doing embroidery and still working on my Stitching Mona installation.

Stitching Mona, so far.

Stitching Mona

 

I am behind in all skills: computer, book binding, writing, photography. It is difficult to be much of a player in the art world. Last year I gave up my idea of an art ‘career’. It did not change the way I work. I just made me feel less of a failure. But I still  apply for things. I still have a tiny bit of hope.

The theme of the past year was loss. Loss of my mother, even though she is alive. Loss of the relationship I had with an art dealer. Loss of the dream of a show at my long time gallery in Boston. Loss of friends who died much too young. I lost two objects so meaningful to me that I can’t yet believe I will not see them again. I want to think they will reappear.

The biggest loss is the loss of a huge chunk of my self esteem and sense of who I am because of the SECRET.

The good news: I have the best friends, who include my husband and my son. I have Alice the dog. I have met great people through social media. I am buoyed by beautiful writing in the books I read, in the shows I watch. I am awed by a neverending pool of talent which produces inspiring, intelligent and sometimes beautiful works of art.

Between 2015 and now I feel I have aged. I feel fragile. My resolution was to do a push up each day (and more as I can do more) and so far I have stuck to it. I want to rise up and find my inner strength. I want to be better than ever, better than the best Oprah makeover. I want to fight for reasonable gun laws and help people who need help. I want to be a great friend.

The nation is on the cusp of another insane election cycle. There is big trouble in the world. Many people are suffering, as always, and my chunk of this universe is but a blip. That is not a comfort to me. It is a fact. I am going to vote. I’ll continue to work at being an artist. I am going to do my push ups and I am going to be a great friend.

 

 

 

 

Rewind

November 23, 2015

 

Accused/Guilty

 
 

Betray

 
 

Secret

 

How do you talk about Something that has happened when you are not allowed to talk about it? Something did happen. Not life or death. Not a horrible illness. Not a crime. But this something, though it did not change my life, changed me. It has made me sad, and thin, and fragile. The thin part is not so bad growing up, as I did, in a family where one could never be too rich or too thin. This Something has only affected two people (though it involved more), and one is me. It is a secret, which is not my choice. 

The Something landed me back in therapy, for a short time. I have not figured out the lesson to be learned. I have not found a positive spin. Except, I am even more close to the family and friends who have been there for me. 

The other positive is a surge in my creative output. I produced a series, not yet complete, which are a result of years of attempting to communicate through visual art. My Manuscript/Word drawings are the result.

The earlier Manuscript drawings were densely filled pages of random geometric and organic shapes. They had no formula. Each one looks like a sort of calligraphy but they are not words. After the Something happened, the Manuscript drawings became illustrations of the deep, visceral feelings I had. Since I was not allowed to speak of the facts to anyone, except in my therapists office, these drawings were a way to express what I felt and if you read between the lines, convey a story without text. 

I love these drawings, which is unusual for me. I don’t often say that I admire my own work. I have gotten great feedback from my friends. I have only shown the drawings to one gallerist and he was not interested in exhibiting them. He felt they were too personal, and therefore too hard to sell. Most likely they will not result in sudden, long awaited success in the Art World. They won’t make me rich. 

So, if I could, and know that I ask as a person who hates hypotheticals, would I go back to the date before this Something happened? I know that time, and apparently it’s going to be a long time, will help me feel less depressed, less wounded. The event will become a memory. The drawings will be my proof, my positive output, my visible, beautiful scar. They won’t change anyone directly affected by the something. They won’t give me ‘closure’ or vindication. But I would not have made these drawings if not for the Something.

Right now I don’t have an answer to my question. Most likely most people would like to hit a rewind button for some event in their lives. Science fiction stories have been written about the possibility. Usually the consequences are not good. The new outcome is worse than the event they hoped to erase or change.

I suppose in the end it doesn’t matter. I can’t go back. I can’t change anything. No lessons will be learned. But maybe for the first time in my life, and I am 57, I am grateful that at least I do have a way to honestly express myself. It is not nothing. 

   

Isolation

 
 

Broken

 
 

Grief

 
 

Wound

 

Moral Compass

October 7, 2015

Inspector Foyle

Inspector Foyle

Daddy

daddy

I have been knocked off course.

I need an ally like my father, or D.C.S. Christopher Foyle, to help me find my way.

My dad was the only person I have known who could actually change a person’s mind about something they thought they believed without ever raising his voice.

When I was in first or second grade at St. Hilda’s & St. Hughes Sister Mary Margaret was angry at me. I was terrified. She can’t have been more than 4″5″ but she was a nun, and nuns are fierce. I was afraid to go back to class. My father said he would come with me to school and clear up any misunderstanding. That prospect terrified me even more than the tiny but furious Sister Margaret. My dad was insistent. He was at least 5’10” and he had on a suit and tie. He looked impressive, strong, tall. He held my little hand and we walked into my classroom together. I sat at my desk. He strode up to Sister Margaret’s desk and leaned down to her. I don’t know what he said because it was a quiet exchange, but I had no more trouble from Sister Margaret. And I felt the way every child lucky enough to have a parent who believes them feels. I felt stronger.

My dad died in 2007 and I have found myself thinking of him, needing him in a way I had not when he was sick. His illness was long and by the time of his death I was not stunned. I was exhausted. Our whole family was tired, depleted by the medical community, by mismanaged care, by faulty diagnosis. I felt grown up, fully adult. I was a wife, a mother.

I have been thinking about my set of adults because certainly I should know some heavyweights by now. But somehow when you are supposed to be the wise grown up you feel small. When something happens to knock you for a loop you want to turn to someone with wisdom, gravitas, inner strength, and age.

Thus my love of Christopher Foyle. Nearly every night since I have been engaged in this dilemma I sit with my husband to watch 90 minutes of Foyle’s War. Last night he sent a priest off to be hanged. Of course, the bad guy was not really a priest. He was a German spy. But Foyle was not intimidated by the irritation of the clergy who tried to shoo him away, nor by the idiot superior who had to beg Foyle to come out of retirement to fix his blunders. He was quiet, wise, kind, strong, clear, and ethical. I want to reach inside my t.v. set and pull him out into my world, just until this is sorted out. I know he would immediately see wrong from right.

Alas my dad is not alive. Mr. Foyle is really Michael Kitchen and he is not available to help me.

But I know right from wrong.

I, along with my husband and my very excellent friends will have to be the adults. I have to be my own compass. My dad gave me the tools I need. I just have to find true north, and follow the arrow. It will be okay. And when my son finds himself faced with his own Sister Mary Margaret, or something more formidable, I’ll be his adult.

compass+old