Post-War Clarity & The Terms and Conditions of Playing Pretend.
It was a Friday night. The weather reports promised snow.
It was a snow-less, Friday night and I found myself kneeling in the aisles of various self-help sections. I handled almost every book that pertained to the problems at hand, and some that were blatantly off the subject. “How to Get Your Life Back!”, “I Love Me!” , “You Can Do it!: Eight Steps to Finding AND Loving Yourself!” All of the titles seemed to be screaming with their obligatory explanation marks and insistent, assuring positive declarations of self-worth and of a life worth living.
At 22 years old, it’s hard to look back and not learn something along the way.
At 22 years old, it’s easy to forget who I was, who I am and who I want to be.
To honor the changing of the seasons, hot to cold, light to dark, I am actively rediscovering the things that I once deemed important. This is the first of those things. As an uninsured, low income individual who considers herself to have a “screw loose” or to be, at times, a bit “off her rocker” writing has and will continue to act as a completely selfish, self-serving form of therapy for me. Even more than the words themselves, or the meanings behind them, it is the mere process of draining my perpetual inner floods that fulfills my interminable thirst for catharsis. I’ve neglected to put forth the effort in repairing the damage of aforementioned floods, nor have I mustered the energy to rebuild the poorly constructed system of levees that have forced these floods upon me.
At any rate, this will be a very slow, very mundane reinvention (of sorts.) I don’t plan on cutting off all of my hair and I don’t plan on selling my life here for one in India or what have you. To put it simply, my goal is to free myself from unnecessary and harmful thoughts, feelings and actions that have knowingly taken control of what should be the most exciting juncture in my life. Now, this is not to say that any of this reinvention bullshit is going to be easy. It feels impossible and might very well be. And I guarantee you that I’m going to kick and scream the entire way through. This abundance of defiance could easily be compared to how a child must feel when their mother yanks them from the playground with the piss poor, ambiguous explanation of “It’s time to go.”
The last time I wrote anything that wasn’t work related (yes, I am a published writer now. Hold your applause until the end, please.) snow covered the ground and I had killer, rockstar bangs (RIP, lovelies.)
Since then, my world has made an unfortunate habit of dipping in and out of its usual orbit, occasionally leaving me without gravity.
It only seems fitting to start where I left off, or somewhere close to it.
A heaping portion of my summers favorite moments were spent floating down river, hazy eyed and laughing. Smelling of campfire is an underrated pleasure, as is letting damp skin dry in the summer sun. Dirt beneath our feet, mid-day hangovers, unzipping the morning; we celebrated the season to its fullest and embraced our unbarred youth.
Other moments were more spontaneous. Laying on the beach at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon is a perfect example of our freelance, freedom. We attend matinee movies and eat brunch, too. We did as we pleased; putting all control in the hands of time.
A moment of weakness. A singular indiscretion. It took time but we started over and haven’t looked back; recovery is still in progress.
I remember our first kiss, awkward and unplanned. I remember the moment I realized that I loved him. I remember each surprise, each fight. I remember crying into his chest and when he promised to change my life.
One year. We traveled through the night only to find ourselves sleep deprived on the most beautiful beach cascading with the most breathtaking sunrise either of us had ever seen all while being viciously attacked by a plague of biting black flies. We slept in the rain, hiked through the forest, drank copious glasses of wine, indulged in plant-provided happiness, hunger and laughter all while weaving through the endless sea of tourists on our tandem bicycle. We marveled at waterfalls, cement statuettes, sweeping valleys and vineyards, old stories and new growth. But above all else, we celebrated all the hard work that brought us to this point; biting black flies, waterfalls and all.
It’s a difficult transition to make. The once lively and exciting relationship that I shared with the camera is becoming more and more distant. I’m getting older and things have become comfortable. The hurt that comes with receiving a rejection letter and the consuming disgust that comes from not feeling desirable is, for me, heartbreaking. Compare, contrast, destruct; a daily cycle that can only be described as debilitating. The battle forges on. 120, 124.5, 118, 121.5. For someone who has strategically avoided a mathematical life, numbers hold the reigns and call the shots; unwillingly, unstoppable. Food makes me cry, hunger makes me smile and the scale makes me want to disappear. For anyone that knows me or thinks that they might have a slight grasp on who I am, I’m not exactly someone who has their shit together. My ducks are not in a row.
Surprisingly enough, I'm not completely delusional. Despite wanting to be everyone and everything and desperately wanting to change myself every morning upon waking, I realize that I cannot be anything than what I am. I realize that I will never be the most beautiful. I will never be the sexiest or the prettiest. I will never be perfect. I will never be entirely imperfect, either. I know that, I do. And I know that wishing I was different, or better or whatever, will not change anything…ever. So, what’s the problem? What is my problem? I can’t even hear that he thinks Katy Perry is hot, or that model so and so is pretty, blah, blah (you get the picture. ) Usually this is the point where I would try to write some pseudo-eloquent, elusive description of how I feel, using poetry and prose to paint me as a character worth sympathizing. I’ll cut the shit. I am a jealous person. So jealous, in fact, that my mind, body and speech shut down and I am reduced to a vegetative state using only “yes”, “no” and “I don’t care” as my main vessels of communication. I don’t need people telling me that “it’s okay.” and I certainly don’t need people telling me that I’m beautiful. All I want is to have someone convince me that I am not crazy. I need to really, truly believe it before I can get better.
Finding out that you don’t have cancer feels, for the lack of better words, pretty fucking amazing. An exam lead to an ultrasound which lead to a biopsy which then lead to a surgery. We spent a month on edge, nurturing the possibility that something could be wrong with me. Thanks to an out pour of well wishes, I managed to survive one of the most difficult ordeals of my life. I firmly believe that if it weren’t for him, I would have lost my mind somewhere along the way.
I heard a radio show once where the topic was about those living their “Plan A” versus those living their Plan B, C or D. “There's the thing you plan to do, and then there's the thing you end up doing. Most of us start off our lives with some Plan A which we abandon...switching to a Plan B, which becomes our life. “ explained Ira. Never did I think I would be living my Plan A with someone equally committed to living his Plan A, resulting in two people unwilling to compromise to the constraints of mediocrity and unhappiness. This isn’t to say we sometimes bite the proverbial bullet and do things we aren’t 100% excited to do, nor does that mean we are 100% happy 100% of the time. But how lucky we are to be able to at least say we are living our Plan A. I won’t go back. Ever.
Written by Jerilyn Cook. Model: Jerilyn Jordan. Styled by Jerilyn Cook. Over the past 9 months, I have seen all of these bylines in print. Pictures and words; redefining myself with every page. It wasn’t easy, and each avenue of my passion continues to present it’s own list of seemingly impossible demands. I won’t go back. Ever.
The well-worn wood floors squeak and moan with each step, and the bedroom windows are shrouded with ivy. There’s a fireplace, a garden window and a just enough space to hide all the things I want to keep hidden. All but one wall is painted a soft shade of Grey and sometimes our front door opens without an invitation to do so. Motherless children, unrelated; Two cat’s curled in laps, claws and paws making the most delicate sound upon the previously described, worn wood floors; they continually drape us in a supreme sense of joy. The warmth provided by this house and the life inside of it, is not comparable to anything I have ever felt before (despite the actual furnace failing to produce our desired amount of heat.) This was the real start of all things real.
So, this is where I am now.
Snow has finally come, although has decided not to stay.
Comforted by revved engine purrs and the still of my new home, I realize that this is all I’ve ever wanted; Filled with the excitement that can only come from not knowing what’s going to happen next, we have a place to call our own complete with tidy stacks of books upon the shelve, music flowing room to room, the smell of homemade food floating about and the undeniable and constant sensation of finally feeling at home. All of my mistakes, struggles and hardships have somehow, someway miraculously provided me with love, happiness and a life that holds great promise.
I can’t be expected to recall, retell and rewrite the past ten months. I can only be reminded to look ahead.
This is all for the greater goal of living free from the restraints of self-loathing, jealousy and anxiety. I’ve always been this way. So to say that I want my life back doesn’t fully make sense. Instead, I am pleading with myself to do the impossible;
I will befriend mirrors and other equally daunting reflective surfaces. I will realize that he has chosen me above all else. I will run to, not from. I will not be my mother or my father. I will fail with humility and grace. I will care about the things worth caring about and will dismiss all else. I will learn to adopt healthy selfishness and become more appropriately selfless. I will only say sorry when I am really, truly sorry. I will open up the closed corridors, gates and thresholds of my heart, etc. I will fall together, not apart.
…and then New Order: Age of Consent began to play.
Here I am.
The world in full motion blur as I stand still.