Theme on a Life (or Who TF Keeps Pulling the Rug)

When I was eleven I got boobs.  By twelve, they were huge.  

There were maybe one or two other girls in my class who had boobs.  Instead of “celebrating” puberty and being excited about getting tits like you constantly see on “coming of age” TV shows, I was mortified.  

I felt like a freak.  More than that.  I felt like a monster.  

I could feel boys staring at me.  I could sense girls criticizing my clothes because…I really couldn’t wear the paper-thin Hollister T’s and Abercrombie blouses that all the cool girls were wearing, because I wasn’t flat as a surfboard like the rest of them. 

So when the boobs came, my self-esteem plummeted.  And it stayed that way for years to come.

In high school, I searched for ways to feel loved and accepted.  I found it in two ways:

  1. With boys
  2. On the stage

With boys…well.  I don’t really think I need to expand here.

On the stage…I stood out in the best possible way.  Because I was the best.  I could sing.  I could dance.  I could act.  I could play instruments.

I didn’t stand out the way I did when I got boobs.  It was a good “stand out.”  It made me feel like people actually wondered what it would be like to be me, and envied me for it.  

When I sang, you listened.  If there was a solo, it was mine. 

By my senior year, I was dating the prom king, and was 100% certain I could triple-threat my way into any college musical theater program.  I’d already been to my first professional “cattle call”, and was ready to go out for blood.  

As I stepped off the stage at the end of the Sweet Charity dance audition at my school, I remember thinking “that was the best I’ve ever danced. I am a triple threat.  I am unstoppable.  I am going to be on Broadway.”

I was finally starting to love myself and my body and what I was capable of doing.  

I was proud.

And we all know what happened a month later.  Life forced my mouth open and shoved a cancer-sized pill down my throat.  

Fast forward ten or eleven years, and you’ll find me in New York City.  I attend the occasional audition, but I’ve never quite recovered the “out for blood” confidence I had before I was sick.  The dancing certainly never came back to what it was.  I have no balance.  And when you’re a female auditioning for musicals in New York City, you’re about a dime a dozen, and (especially when you’re short) they expect you to land triple pirouettes.  Doubles at least.  

You also have to sell yourself…which I cannot do.  In my eyes, my hair is mousy and thin and not like it was before, and so therefore I am ugly.  I am also not skinny, so I’m fat.

Did I mention that in musical theater, if you’re not skinny you’re fat?  That’s very important to understand. Not skinny=fat. 

So I immediately walk into any room mentally apologizing for not being skinny and for having bad hair.  

And that kind of attitude doesn’t really get cast often.

So…I find myself in hospitality.  Which, in New York City, is essentially theater, but with food.  But I find myself enjoying it.  I maitre d’ at a fancy Upper East Side restaurant where I help people with their fur coats, and make sure the menu they’ve planned is carefully set at their private table, and I make sure lawyers from competing law firms aren’t seated close together.  I charm the rich bankers and smile politely at their wives who hate me.  

I end up working as an executive assistant at another restaurant, and eventually find myself in charge of their events.  I meet with all the local hotel concierges, who then call the restaurant asking for me by name.  I stop the hostesses from seating Dr. David So and So at a table that I know he hates.  If they can’t seat him anywhere else, I comp his appetizer.  

I apologize that the consistency of your fish-of-the-day wasn’t up to your liking, and I send you a round of (our cheapest) bubbly as an apology.  You hand me your business card on the way out, and say you like my style.  

It’s not the game I thought I’d be playing, but it’s a game I’ve gotten quite good at.  

I’m becoming impressed with myself and what I’m capable of and WHO I’m capable of holding conversations with.  I’m starting to think…I have a future in NYC hospitality and nightlife.

I am becoming who I am…

And then life forces my mouth open and shoves a pandemic-sized pill down my throat.  

And now I’m here.  Typing this.  Wondering how the recurring theme in my life seems to be that any time I get close to becoming who it appears I’m meant to become, a MOMENTOUS road block is thrown. 

And I know that’s life.  Roadblocks come, and we navigate them.  But like…come on…cancer and then a world-wide pandemic?  Both at precisely the time I’m thinking I’ve got SOMETHING figured out?  Or if not figured out, at times when I’m finally starting to be…okay with myself?  And not feel like 12 year old monster-tits?

The most consistent aspect of the last 12 years of my life has been writing and blogging, and of course, there’ve been gaps of time where I wasn’t writing but it always comes back to this.  And it always seems to come back to cancer, and I’ve been actively rallying against that.

I stopped writing my original blog because I was tired of pigeonholing myself into only writing about cancer.

And then a recent trip to the city triggered a pretty significant meltdown.  Once again ending with me cursing the day I was diagnosed with cancer…and for the first time ever, wondering WHY I survived.  Like what was I spared for?   

And I don’t mean that in a “I should be dead, I wanna kill myself, I wish the cancer had killed me” kind of way.  

I mean it in a “why did I survive only to have the f***ing rug pulled out from underneath my feet anytime I get close to figuring shit out?” kind of way.  

And then, of course, comes the post-meltdown meltdown, titled: Why Oh Why Do I Keep Coming Back to a Cancer That is 12 Years Old?

But here’s the thing.

Now that I’ve been studying end of life care…I think I know why.  I even posted about this on facebook a few months back…and I can’t believe it took until now for me to realize it applied to my cancer survivorship as well.  

I keep re-grieving.

According to therapychanges.com, re-grief is part of the grieving process but occurs as a sudden and unexpected wave of emotion that can hit at any time.  You can read their article about re-grief here:

The way I think of it in terms of End of Life and dying, is that re-grief obviously happens in the recent months and first year or two after a death…the first birthday or holiday without that person, the discovering of an item they left at your house that triggers you into re-grieving. 

But it will continue to happen even in the decades to come.  It’s why grief is truly a never-ending process. If you’ve lost a parent young, it may happen when you have your first child and you wish they could be there to see the baby.  It may happen at a very difficult time in your life ten years after their death, but you SO wish they could be with you to hold your hand during your struggles.  And the fact that they are not causes you to re-grieve.

This has to be no different with cancer survivors.  Certain events in our lives are always going to trigger our cancer grief, no matter how far away we are from treatment, and no matter how much therapy we get.

It’s going to hit us when it’s time to have children and we don’t know if our chemically-treated and radiated body will allow that for us.  It’s going to hit us when we have to start having colonoscopies and breast cancer screenings YEARS earlier than everyone else.  

It’s going to hit us when we hear of someone else who has died of cancer, and we wonder why the they should die when we got to live?  It’s going to hit us when we come across a photo of ourselves pre-cancer and realize that no matter how hard we squint our eyes and focus…we can NOT remember what it was like to be a person who never had cancer.  

It’s going to hit us during a global pandemic, when we’re knocked on our asses by the universe again.  When that feeling of TOTAL LOSS OF CONTROL hits.  When the deja vous of having the rug pulled out from under our feet throws us off balance and we’re, once again, wondering who the fuck we are now?  Wondering why we, once again, feel like the 12 year old with giant tits that everyone is looking at like…WTF.

Who am I now?  Now that I’ve had cancer and am living through a global pandemic?  

I don’t know.

But I do think it’s important that I stop apologizing in my writing for talking about cancer.  Especially in my more recent postings, you’ll notice I often say things like “not to make this about cancer again,” or “I know this happened so long ago, but…”

I know now that I cannot do that.  I am doing a disservice to myself as a cancer survivor and to my fellow cancer survivors.

The person I am today is a person who had cancer during a time of self-discovery, and it will always be part of my identity.

I re-grieve, and I re-greive often.

You can, too.  That’s okay, you know.  

You, too, can grieve the person you were before the pandemic.  You can grieve the person you were before you lost your mom.  You can grieve the loss of your grandfather ten years later.  You can grieve the person you were when you were 18…even if you’ve experienced NO trauma since then.  

You can grieve and re-grieve.  It’s okay.  

The grieving can lead to self discovery.

And that’s what I’m hoping for myself. 

And if you still feel like an awkward 12 year old with giant boobs, you CAN call a plastic surgeon.

I did. 

Infinite Infinite Jest

TW: Suicide, mental health struggles

I’ve been square dancing around David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest since I was in college. It seems to infinitely pop up for me at various times in my life (see what I did there? That’s like, how I got the title of the post and stuff?)

I read one of his short stories in my Fiction workshop class my Junior year—a class that, for me, provided a WELCOME reprieve from the world of pirouettes, belting, and show tunes—and I remember my professor talking about him being a genius…and not just because he’d written an acclaimed 1,079 page novel called Infinite Jest that…people ACTUALLY took the time to read.

I mean, even Harry Potter never cleared 1,000 pages, and I had never even been able to focus myself long enough to read one of those books. I was in disbelief that someone could write a 1,000+ page novel…

…and because I really LIKED the short story we read in class, it occurred to me that maybe—for the right author—I could read 1,000+ pages.

I knew it would take me a very long time, but I thought I could potentially do it.

And then…the mystique grew.

Our professor shared that the author had, sadly, died from suicide a few years ago (in 2008 to be exact).

Well…wow. I thought, here’s this amazing author of whom I’ve read one short story, I’m told he’s written 1000+page novel, but now I’m also aware that his work…is limited. He’s gone. This 1000+ page novel is his LEGACY.

Not that his other work was not good…it’s just…this Infinite Jest is what put him on the literary map.

I didn’t run out right away and buy the book. Over the course of the next few years, I read other works by David Foster Wallace. Some short stories, parts of Broom of the System, and all of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men…the title of which I just was too curious about not to read cover to cover.

I had found a thick book called “The David Foster Wallace Reader” in a bookstore in Brooklyn (I used to cross burroughs weekly for EMDR sessions). I bought the book and consumed more short stories…and actually, a few chapters of Infinite Jest that were included in the “reader.”

One day, probably about 4 years after I’d first heard of David Foster Wallace, I officially purchased a copy of Infinite Jest.

And promptly did not read it.

It sat on a shelf. It moved into giant tubs of books that I hauled from apartment to apartment to parents basement to apartment back to basement.

In the early summer of 2020, when businesses were JUST started to crack their doors open again, my mom and I ventured into a little used bookstore in Syracuse…and atop one of the shelves featured on prominent display was a book called Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace.

I flipped through a few sections of the book, reading bits and pieces here and there (stopping, of course, for the obligatory drop of hand sanitizer every so often, as one with OCD in a pandemic does). It was an extensive interview (transcribed from many cassette tapes) with DFW that Rolling Stone author David Lipsky had done as he accompanied the author on his last leg of the book tour to promote Infinite Jest.

I bought the book, thinking maybe this is what you need to reintroduce you to the possibility of reading that colossal book that is gathering dust on your Mom’s book shelf.

I read half of the interview book…and I can’t remember why I stopped. I enjoyed it very much…I’m not sure if I was just overwhelmed with reading at the time…I had many books I was aiming to complete while I had all this pandemic time. But somehow, after reading only 150 pages, this book joined Infinite Jest back up on a shelf.

And then in December of 2020, the very first friend I’d ever had in this world died from suicide. I had not spoken to him in years, but it felt like a true connection to my childhood was gone with the snap of two fingers.

I recall, one night, staring intently at an old photograph of us as children and thinking…the two children in this photo have just no idea what the world has in store for them. One now gone, and one (if it’s not painfully obvious) still mad at the world over a cancer battle now 12 years old.

As I mentioned, I had not spoken to him for a quite a while…a guilt I still feel pretty palpably some days. I suffered from that “too-cool-to- reach-out-to-an-old-friend-they’ll-think-I’m-so-weird” syndrome, and I can’t take that back.

I recalled he was an avid reader. And so, one day, several months after his death, I asked his mother via text message if she could share with me the title of one of his favorite books.

“Have you heard of Infinite Jest?”

I knew then that I HAD to complete Infinite Jest in my lifetime.

So why am I writing about this today?

Well…I just got around to finishing Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself…the extensive interview with the author that I mentioned before.

I knew I wanted to complete that book before cracking Infinite Jest open again…but I’d been avoiding it.

And I’d been avoiding it because I knew it was going to be…complex for me…to read the thoughts of a man who also died from suicide (whose words were so loved by my friend who died of suicide) and then to reconcile all this with what I’ve been learning about end-of-life support and the death-positive movement.

In other words, I’ve spent months learning to be okay with death as a “THING” that happens to all of us as mortal humans. And I’ve learned ways of being available to those who are ALSO trying to find peace with death and dying.

But most of the content I’ve been exposed to has been about making people feel okay with the concept of death so that they may LIVE more fully with whatever time they’ve got…

I’m not entirely sure how to explain what I’m feeling right now. Something last week compelled me to pull the interview back off the shelf and I finished it. I even cracked Infinite Jest open the other day and read the first fifty pages.

Even just the first fifty pages…I’m overwhelmed by the author’s intelligence, and just can’t get away from the idea of the “tortured genius.”

In other words, it’s hard to escape from the idea that this man was so intelligent and unique in his thinking and really had like…a PULSE on what was ailing the world…it’s hard not to go “well he’s SO intelligent and in touch with his feelings, he must’ve known what was best for himself.”

And like…that is NOT the thing to think about suicide. That is NOT death positivity. That is a human suffering.

And so how do you, as a person who supports the death-positive movement…how do you say “death is okay, it’s okay to be at peace with death” but then also say “Oh, but suicide is still not right.”

Apologies…this is definitely more of a stream of consciousness kinda thing for me. See, I don’t have answers.

I just…I just want everyone to know that death positivity is about bringing a sense of peace about your death so that you can live WITHOUT the weight of dying fears. I hope that is clear.

Maybe there is a way, in cases of people who have suicidal thoughts, to change those thoughts into a force for good…to somehow MORPH them into a peace with an inevitable death in the futureso that living in the current moment feels better and not so painful.

Because living really IS painful. I do not deny that, not one bit

I don’t know, guys.. I just wanted to get a mess of thoughts onto a page.

I have enjoyed reading the first fifty pages of Infinite Jest knowing that my friend read these words, and they brought him happiness in the moments he read them.

There is a movie called “The End of the Tour” which stars Jason Segal as David Foster Wallace, and it is essentially the extended interview in movie/storytelling form. Jesse Eisenberg plays the Rolling Stone magazine reporter.

It’s actually a brilliant movie and I only stumbled across it after completing the interview book and looking up some more info about it. The movie came out in 2015, and I don’t recall seeing ANY publicity for it…but it’s very beautifully done.

I cried at the end…couldn’t help it. Jason Segal really captures the spirit of DFW…especially after reading the book, you feel like you’re watching the REAL guy bring his own words to life.

And it’s…you just really feel kind of lucky that this guy shared parts of his brain with us…and he gave us thousands of pages to comb through over the course of his life.

Just wish he’d stuck around.

Anyway. Thanks for reading the babble.

I can’t be Coco’d right now

Hi I’m in the middle of Starbucks wearing all black like pretending I’m a student or like a writer or something, and like every two minutes I take a sip of the coffee I don’t really like and just…wow it’s January still?

January is making me not want to leave my house, and I think it’s severely impacting my self-esteem cells so I made myself come to this Starbucks so I felt part of a community.

Before I started typing this post, I was actually journaling about how I think chemo killed my self-esteem cells since I was 17 and my id and brain were still developing and fast growing (see? Like how chemo kills all fast-growing cells?)

And like how sad is that even?

“Dear Diary, I think chemo killed my self-esteem cells.”

You know what’s sadder?

I don’t even have a diary, I started one so I could write that.

And I’m afraid to go home because if my fiance isn’t still watching soccer, I think he’s gonna make me watch Encanto, and January has just got me in a head space where I can’t do emotional Disney Pixar that’s going to wreck me.

I have been avoiding Encanto all month because I feel like I’m gonna get Coco’d, and I can’t be Coco’d in January.

I refuse to be Coco’d in January.

There’s not much else I have to share today, I just knew if I was trying not to be Coco’d in January, there are probably others, and if you’ve been Coco’d in January or you’re also still trying not to be Coco’d in January, just know that I see you, I feel you, and if we get Coco’d together, so be it, it’s gotta be February soon, right?

GET OUTTA HERE COCO!

Well…Now You Know.

Hi. I’m still alive.

And I haven’t wanted to write.

There is no one concrete reason.

By spring 2021, unemployment got me so cray in my own head that I took a full time job, a part time job, and several theater gigs to fill my time and had no time to just stop and fart for myself.

And another reason is…

The pandemic kinda got me in this head space where all I really wanted to say to people when I pulled up an empty blog post was “Well…now ya know.”

And of course…OF COURSE…that ties back to cancer. (If it didn’t, would it be a true Jesse post?)

The perpetual state of total fear that everyone was feeling toward the beginning of the pandemic…like…yeah, I was feeling that, too.

But EVEN more than that was this really snarky feeling of like, “Well…now ya know.”

Well…now ya know” what it’s like to not feel invincible.

Well…now ya know” what it’s like to constantly worry about your immune system and sanitize everything that comes into your house.

Well…now ya know” what it’s like to not want people to hug you or come close to you without your expressed permission, and have to stay home all the time.

Well…now ya know what it’s like to be FORCED to face the possibility of your own death before age 40, 30, 20…18…

And then I thought…wow, Jess, that’s pretty bitchy. You should sort that out.

And so I wasn’t writing. I just let myself work for a little while. Get used to living somewhere new: A SUBURB.

Get used to the idea that you’re not a city girl anymore, that you live in a house, and that you have a mortgage, and you are…*gulp*…getting kind of…domestic…(Christ).

And then one day, I heard the term “death doula.”

Now, I’m not going to sit here and go into detail about the different kinds of things death doulas do. I’m going to reference some lit:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/well/doulas-death-end-of-life.html

But I knew immediately, when I did some research on what a death doula is, that it was something I really wanted to do…and I hadn’t felt certain about “things I’d like to do” in quite a long time.

So push comes to shove, and long story short…I completed a Death Doula certification thru Going With Grace (with the AMAZING, enlightening ALUA ARTHUR), and earned NEDA proficiency…

And it was through the course of accomplishing the above that I discovered the HEALTHY, less catty version of “Well…now you know…and also had a major AHA moment about what truly bothered me about having cancer—besides, of course, the fact that I had cancer):

We are incapable of talking healthily about death.

It’s true. And throughout my whole cancer treatment I really felt that no one could or would look me square in the face and talk with me about death unless we mentioned God or religion.

We can’t do it. Our western society doesn’t want to talk about it. Our med-tech-driven healthcare system doesn’t want you to recognize its existence. It offers you treatment after treatment after treatment in place of saying, when the time comes, “hi, it’s time for your body to stop.”

We can’t talk about how humans die…how unsettling it is…can’t talk about why we die… or what might this all BE for?

Even for a healthy person, the questions exist because…a healthy person is also going to die. They are supposed to.

But if we talk about it, we are labeled “morbid.”

We are not “thinking positively.” If we don’t THINK POSITIVE, we are attracting the opposite.

And the message we give our actively dying folks in America is that DYING is LOSING, and so they’d better not “give up.”

Few actively dying people hear “it is okay to go. It is natural. Your body is done fighting and that is okay.” And so they fight tooth and nail to hang on for their loved ones even when it’s their time…and as a result, they reinforce for the next generation that death is not okay and you must cling on for…dear life.

Is it a wonder we have a complex?

But we cannot, cannot, cannot talk about death. Too icky. Too uncomfortable. Too morbid. Too sad.

-*-

Van Gogh, Skull with Cigarette

I’ve been wondering for years now whether I really want to continue writing a blog that is

A) totally cancer-focused

OR

B) Just…kind of spur of the moment, chaotic blather

Neither feels authentic anymore.

And that is another reason why you haven’t heard from me.

But now I feel a little bit more direction. I want to be part of the conversation about dying and death-positivity, BECAUSE:

Regardless of who you are and what you’ve been through…2020 and the world thereafter has shown us all that we’d best at least entertain the idea that we won’t be here one day.

And you know what?

I know…I know it sounds morbid. But I swear, since I’ve started my death-positive journey…I have been more present and aware of the moments of my life. Of how I am feeling. Of what’s working and what’s not. And of what I’m grateful for.

The death positive movement IS a thing, and one of its leaders is Caitlyn Doughty of “The Order of the Good Death.” Literally, if you google “death positive,” her website is the first to come up. She kind of kickstarted the “movement” and she’s hilarious. Not morbid. She is hilarious (highly recommend her book “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”)

But the ideas behind the movement have been around. I mean…if we’re being real, indigenous peoples have been attuned to them from the beginning.

Recently, I’ve been reading “Die Wise” by “death guru” Stephen Jenkinson…and while Jenkinson can be perceived as a somewhat controversial figure…it’s one of HIS ideas that has been sticking with me most lately (and kind of haunting me every morning).

He talks about how the problem with the western world today is that we expect to live. We wake up every day anticipating that we will live, and nothing else is okay—we are OWED the day.

I mean…you don’t need me to tell you that we are NOT owed the day. We anticipate that we’ve got all this time…and we get depressed by the monotony of our days because we just….figure it’s gonna go on and on and on.

And it quite literally is not. That’s what makes each moment significant. (Yeah, a little self-help-y…but hey…whatever helps the self.)

I could go on and and on about Stephen Jenkinson, really.

But maybe another day.

My overall point here is…THIS cancer survivor wanted to talk about death from the beginning of her cancer diagnosis…and all the well-meaning people in her life wanted to “think positively,” (which has a time and place) or give her a Bible.

And those well-meaning people…have probably not had many open conversations about death before either…so how can they be expected to know what to say about it in an instance like this?

I don’t blame anyone. But the pandemic brought a lot of those suppressed questions and curiosities about death right back to me in a very visceral way. And I think that’s why I was feeling a little…I dunno… SALTY towards people and their pandemic frenzy? (especially toward those my own age, who just couldn’t understand what I was going through way back when). Kinda like….NOW YOU GET IT. I TRIED TO EXPLAIN THIS PANICKY FEELING I WAS HAVING IN 2009.

These are “uncertain times” for everyone. Not just for me, now.

Well, now you know…” I thought.

And, I learned, through the course of the past year, that the full thought is this:

“Well, now you know…we should be talking more openly about dying and not sweeping it under the rug.”

If we talk about it, if we acknowledge it…we can not only maneuver these “uncertain times” just a little more effectively, but we can find our living moments feel just that much more ALIVE.

I intend to blog more as I explore the death-positive movement and where I fit into it.

My blog may no longer be for you, and I understand. I can promise it won’t all be posts like these. I’m sure a lady at Sephora will offend me again and I’ll launch a full-scale campaign.

But I understand if this is where I leave you.

A Passage I Love

Finishing up “UNTAMED” by Glennon Doyle this week.

Wanted to share my favorite passage as we creep up on a full year of so much sadness and dying.

The scary part of dying isn’t the dying itself…it’s the question it brings, and I find myself plagued by that question a lot lately as we lose so many humans.

This passage brings me so much comfort that I might just have it printed and folded up in my jewelry box for safe keeping and frequent reminder.

Now it will be here, too:

Tish has always understood metaphors best. (That thing you feel but can’t see, baby is like that thing you can see.)

…I told her that maybe when we were born, we were poured from our source into these tiny body buckets. When we die, we’ll be emptied back out and return to that big source and to each other. Maybe dying is just returning—back out from these tiny containers to where we belong. Maybe then all the achy separation we feel down here will disappear, because we’ll be mixed together again. No difference between you and me. No more buckets, no more skin…all sea.

“But for now,” I told her, “you are a bucket of sea. That’s why you feel so big and so small.”

“Untamed” by Glennon Doyle

Hope your week is off to a good start.

Love,

Jesse

Goldfish Weight

OMG Hi. I’m alive.

I survived the end of 2020 and the beginning of its twin, 2021.

I realize it’s been a minute since I last posted…I’ve been so bad.

Like, for real, it’s been two months, and I know, I know. You’re just now realizing what was missing from your year so far:

It’s not socializing with friends…

It’s not going to the theater…

It’s not a genuine feeling of safety and confidence that the world is gonna be okay and we aren’t going to continue being killed off one by one by disease, violence, and hate…

IT’S ME.

I was missing.

What was missing was me.

And if y0u’re wondering why I’m being so repetitive and blocky and short in my phrases, it is because I would literally rather stick a pen into my eye than write in this blog right now.

BTW guess what? I have over 100 gel pens.

I’ve been avoiding this first post back like the plague (too soon?) Cuz I feel bad that it’s been so long and I know that once I start again I have to keep in a good flow or else I’ll drop off again…

So here are my excuses for going MIA:

Before Christmas I was in kind of a sad, weird “Covid funk” where I ate lots of rainbow goldfish and contemplated the meaning of life all day until my boyfriend—I’m just gonna start calling him “Matt” because I feel like a thirteen year-old every time I say “my boyfriend”—came home from work and I cried because all I did all day was eat rainbow goldfish and feel sorry for myself and he has a job.

You can ask him. It’s true.

I’m currently working to shed the goldfish weight.

Then right after Christmas we got a puppy and he’s a dream, but he’s also very needy…because he is a puppy. If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen him. A lot. You probably unfollowed me to get away, and are only reading this new post because you forgot you’re on my mailing list, and now you’re gonna unsubscribe, and then I’m gonna get a notice that you unsubscribed and I’m gonna wonder if I was mean to you in high school or in Target last week, and it’s gonna be a whole thing.

Speaking of high school, I was thinking about my senior year the other day on “World Cancer Day”…where the whole world comes together to…celebrate? Cancer?

I dunno, I’m not really sure what you do on that day so I just posted a pic of me looking pathetic and sh** during treatment and was like “this is me I am strong.”

(And like, don’t worry, you don’t have to be like, “awww Jesse is making fun of herself because at heart she doesn’t truly believe she’s strong”. That’s not the case, though. I know I am strong—I’m a proud carrier of my “cancer card” and I will always lord it over your psoriasis and seasonal allergies).

What the actual f**k was I talking about, though…

Oh. High school. Yeah I was remembering how I heard that this kid, who shall remain nameless—BUT YES, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND I KNOW THAT YOU DID THIS—

This kid sold fancy lollipops in the cafeteria to “raise money for Jesse.” But I dunno, it must’ve paid for prom or some sh** because I didn’t see any of that money.

However, I am very, very patient. And you—-you know who you are—whenever you would like to a) apologize for using me and get right with God or b) pay the f**k up, I’m back in the 315 watching Cobra Kai, and anxiously awaiting your call.

**(I’m also aware of a similar ruse in the Syracuse community theater scene, although with that one, I don’t have names or specifics)

Also, guess what? I am learning self-defense. Matt is a black belt and is teaching me, even though every 30 seconds I go “owww, my ankle” in a really annoying voice.

Cobra Kai!!!

Cobra. Kai.

2021 has given me a lot of things I didn’t need, but am happy to take.

For example, I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER. Thought. “I wonder what happened to every single character in the ‘Karate Kid’ movies.”

But I discovered the answer in 2021. (I know it is technically a 2018 series. I just found it this year, k?)

And I found Russell Stover sugar free peanut butter cups, too.

Didn’t need ‘em. Happy to have ‘em!

Oh. Oh. OH. And this song about dinosaurs in love that I just heard yesterday and almost cried?

YEAH I DIDN’T NEED THESE THINGS.

BUT I LIKE THEM. I’LL TAKE THEM.

Alright, I’m gonna wrap this up because it’s not really going anywhere. I gotta go watch Sopranos. (Tony just whacked Ralphie for setting his horse on fire, and now he’s trying to pin it on New York.)

So yeah, I’ve been avoiding this post because it is the “band aid post.” It’s the “I’m sorry, I’ve been bad about posting, so now that I’m posting again, I’m gonna be better about posting” post.

Band aid ripped.

I’m back.

And maybe…just maybe

My next post will have a clear, concise beginning, middle and end.

And a point.

HERE’S DEWEY:

Dear Old Friend,

You’ll never read this, which begs the question: what is the point? 

And I suppose there is no point.  

My head has just been swirling since I heard the news this afternoon, and I thought that maybe I’d feel better getting my thoughts on a page.

Maybe I’ll light a candle and read it aloud, later.

Just this past week a friend sent me a silly meme.  He wrote, along with it, “Jess, why do I feel like this will resonate with you?

It was two of the Powerpuff Girls, their hair sopping wet, pouting at each other.  The caption: me at age 9 saying goodbye to the girl I met on the beach that I would never see again.

I laughed because it was true.  I’ve always been a sentimental person, and I remember all of my friends, however long or short our friendships—even though, many of them, I’d have no idea where to find, even with social media at my fingertips. 

The 1-day beach friends.  The McDonald’s PLAYPLACE friends.  The theater camp friend who made me snort Dr. Pepper out of my nose…my best friend from children’s choir, who loathed choir practice as much as I did.

And you, of course.  My first “boyfriend.”

Well…I suppose you never were my boyfriend—at least not knowingly. 

After learning, at age five, that it would be illegal for me to marry my cousin, Sammy, I decided to marry you, instead.

That was why I followed you around at our parents’ boring parties.  You were fun, and intelligent, and, of course, my future husband.  

You were a year older than I was, a full six years old, and so very mature in my eyes.  I considered myself lucky to have you!  I’d pick out my best and most twirliest dress to wear when I knew I was going to see you.  I had to make the perfect impression.

You knew how to pop the Pepsi can tabs at the parties without cutting your fingers, which was most impressive.  You opened mine for me, and listened to me dawdle on and on about how I was going to be the head majorette in the 4th of July parade even though I didn’t know how to twirl a baton and was a goddamned liar. 

And when I’d stop talking for a few minutes, you would teach me things about math and science and we’d run around until the adults inevitably said “slow down, you two!”

I was so sad when you moved away.  Over the next few years, whenever I got dragged to a party, I’d ask if you were going to come, and the answer became “no” more often than not.  

On rare occasion, usually in the summer time, the answer would be “yes.”  One summer, at the lake, we rode in a boat, and you showed me how to fish.  You liked a band called “Slipknot,” and at the end of the day, you gave me your screen name. I remember it by heart, to this very day.  

Then lots of years went by.  You got into a school in the city.  I got very sick.  

During my recovery, I looked you up on Facebook and sent you a message.  I wasn’t sure if you’d remember me, but you said “of course I do!  How are you, little Jesse!”

I thought to myself, maybe I’ll become a Broadway actress next year and we will reunite in the city, and fall in love, and my five year old self would’ve been right all along.

But we didn’t.  Fate had other plans.

Last I knew, you were living overseas.  Multi-lingual and as intelligent as I always knew you to be.

I live in our hometown again, since the pandemic, and I have thought of you from time to time—I’ve had so much time to peel back the pages of my childhood memories.  

You don’t have social media anymore, but I found you on LinkedIn about two months ago.  Your face is more mature, but it is still quite the same face from my memory.

I’ve only just started monkeying around with LinkedIn, and I thought, “shall I add him? Send him a message and say, ‘I know this is strange, but it’s me: Jesse.  You used to open my Pepsi cans, and I was in love with you!’”

But I didn’t.  The fragile ego in me thought “better not.  He looks awfully professional and awfully important.  He’d be far too busy.” 

I’m very sorry that I didn’t.  I had no idea you, too, were drowning in the sea of unemployment that this violent pandemic has sunk us in.

I don’t pretend that my reaching out would have changed what happened.  I just know that I’ve felt so hopeless and purposeless and just plain sad through all this, and now I know you were, too.

Maybe our commiseration would’ve brought you some comfort.

Maybe just the realization that your long lost “girlfriend” across the sea still remembers our talks and our memories.  Still remembers your screen name, and your favorite band.  

Maybe knowing, even in your darkest, most loneliest moments, that someone so long gone from your life now, still held you in such high regard…maybe for a moment, you would’ve felt better.  The smallest moment can sometimes cause the biggest shifts in perspective.

Your childhood friend loves you very much.  Even though it’s been so long, she wishes she could still reach out.  Even if it was just to say “thank you for teaching me to fish.”  

When I look back on the people in my life, you are one of my favorites.  

You’ll always be one of my favorite people.  

My heart breaks. I hope this pandemic is over soon.

Love,

Jesse

Introduction {To My Insanity}

About a month or so ago I had “Hamilton” playing in the car. And while I drove with Lin Manuel rapping on and on about “legacy, legacy, legacy,” I started thinking about what that means for all the lay-people like myself who aren’t fighting a revolution or dueling in Weehawken. Or like, writing the American Constitution.

I was struck by the idea that I don’t really know what I have to leave behind, and I’m due to be 30 years old in March.

Now, I don’t mean to be morbid. I know it’s not typical to really have a legacy until later in your life–but when you’ve been as far out on the diving board of life as I have, you start thinking about that earlier (and, of course, 2020 hasn’t really made us feel like we’re gonna live forever).

I realized, yes, I’d have friends and family who would tell stories about how smart and charming and witty I was.

And I’d have this blog (until the website bill stopped getting paid–more on this later).

But what could I have to truly commemorate my being here on this sad little planet?

Many of you have told me you think I ought to write a book, and it’s always been my intention to do so at some point in my life. I’d always imagined “at some point in my life” being “at some point when the world has discovered my genius and Simon and Shuster are offering me a million dollars for my autobiography.”

And then I thought…

Books. Internet. Electronics.

E-books.

Oh, my god, I could write and self-publish an E-Book.

And so that is what I’m going to do to commemorate my 30th birthday! Not necessarily for you, the reader. More for me, so I can die knowing I left a true legacy of “whiny white girl” behind me.

I am writing an E-Book, and you can expect it sometime mid-spring, likely on Amazon.

I’ll keep you abreast of all the deets.

“Breast.”

Ha.

So anyway, I’ve been working on it, and I decided to share today the introduction to my Untitled E-Book! I am censoring the swear words for this website because this is a family friendly blog (kind of?).

But the book is going to be uncensored and probably a bit SAUCY.

Like, the first chapter so far is mostly me musing about how the first 5 years of my life I associate with getting yelled at by my mom for having my hands down my pants.

Jesse Rose, where are your hands, young lady!?

I’m sure Freud would have something very sexy to say about this, but in all honesty, it was just very warm down there, and I found it comforting.

But I digress.

After this little sneak peak to my E-Book project, I am going to have a button that makes me very uncomfortable.

But, alas, I started this website two years ago when I had a very well-paying job, and now it is “the worst of times” and it’s time to renew my website…which costs a pretty penny.

If you enjoy my writing and find yourself financially capable of kicking in a dollar to help me renew my website, I would be forever grateful, and would honor you with a “thank you” in my E-Book, entirely separate from the page about baby Jesse putting her hands in her pants.

If you are unemployed like me, or having trouble making ends meet, please do not donate.

If you can only afford to help one cause this holiday season, please DON’T make it this one.

End of begging. I promise to never ask again. My shenanigans will always be free.

Until my E-Book is done. That’ll cost ya.

BUT, ALAS, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO:

__*__

Introduction (Jesse’s Untitled E-Book Insanity)

I’ve dreaded my 30th birthday since the day I turned 25.  

It’s, like, the “thing” you do.  

You act like you’re so ashamed to turn 30 because I guess it’s officially when you start being considered “old” by “young people.”

“Ew, don’t invite Stacie…she’s, like…30.”

You know what I mean, right?  As if Stacie had a choice in the matter?

Stacie had ZERO choice.  Stacie is still the same person she’s always been, except she’s probably just BETTER and wiser and OVER your 22 year-old BS because she remembers when she was 22 and stupid. 

But I digress.

I don’t actually know who Stacie is, I made her up and I’m a little irritated with myself for spelling it “ie” and not just “y”.  Something about “a-c-i-e” bothers my eye.  

STOP, STOP, IT’S NOT ABOUT STACY OR STACIE.

It’s about how somewhere along the line, getting older stopped being cool, and we’ve just accepted it as, like, a “rite of passage.”  It’s when you start getting birthday cards that say, “WOW, ANOTHER BIRTHDAY!?” on the front.

It used to be cool to get older.  Like, remember when we WANTED to be the older kids, and go to the school dances, and touch butts under the bleachers and shit?

And like, we couldn’t wait to be old enough to walk around the mall by ourselves and buy copious amounts of thongs even though they’re about as comfortable as a bicycle seat to the vagina? (I have personal experience in this matter and it is not a pleasing sensation).

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, we get this sure sense that it’d be best to just not have anymore birthdays…

I certainly did.  As I said, from 25 on, I felt like a ticking time bomb.  Like I only had 4 more years to become “successful” and “perfect” and “beloved among my peers” before I’d turn back into a pumpkin.

Like, at age 30 I would immediately become fat and matronly and unf***able and dried up  (sorry, Ma).  

Basically, I can only describe it as this overwhelming feeling that I’d better be successful before I start the next decade of my life, because after that, I was no longer going to be beautiful and physically desirable , and therefore, I’d have trouble getting ahead in life.

Really, truly.  That is what I’ve boiled the feeling down to. It’s an old societal belief that runs so deep it’s encoded into our female DNA.

And, of course, there are a slew of other paranoias and psychological traumas that feed into it–and we’ll get to that.  

But what I’m starting to come around to–what I’m really only just starting to grasp…is that I think perhaps my entire twenties were an intricate obstacle course designed specifically to exorcise the demons of my childhood and teenage years.  

Because I started my twenties under the impression that my biggest demon was the cancer that ravaged my body for a year and a half in my late teens, and once I “got over” that, I’d be a fully formed person!  But you know what I keep hearing?

I keep hearing that illness manifests from something else.  Something psychological or intrinsic.  Something often unfelt and lying dormant.  

Like, that cancer demon?  He showed up because some smaller demons were already there, and they were like, “hey cancer, we’ve been haunting this b***h for years, and she still hasn’t caught on, so you should come check her out.  She’s got big tits and no spine–she’ll def let you take over for a bit.”

Yeah…I’m starting to think my biggest demon was propped up by a bunch of little crony demons doing Jets/Sharks dances all over my f***ing cerebellum.

But enough about demons.  Instead of falsely psychoanalyzing your own mind, grasping at straws in an attempt to put together the puzzle of your true “self,” it is widely accepted that therapy is the best course of action to work through the ash-heap of your past.

You should do this.  You should 100% go to therapy because it is amazing and even if you don’t feel less crazy when you’re done, you’ll at least feel like someone else held up the weight of your “crazy” for an hour or so.

I, however, have decided to write this book.  

This book is my new therapy.  This book is me exorcising the demons of my first thirty years, so that I may be reborn like a f***ing phoenix or some sh**, and be a sick-nasty thirty year-old BAMF (preferably one who never wrinkles and stays young-looking forever).

This book is me making it “cool” to be older and wiser again. 

It is me, giving you the weight of my crazy for 200 pages or so.  

Hope ya been liftin,’ betch.

__*__

When “What Are the Chances” Means Nothing

This week alone, I’ve diagnosed myself with three cancers: brain cancer, melanoma of the eye, and cervical cancer.

I get this way whenever I have doctors appointments. I had an eye exam yesterday, and during my last two eye exams I was diagnosed with a pseudo-tumor and a nevus of the eye, consecutively.

The latter is simply a freckle on the eye that one has keep out of the sunlight and generally keep an ‘eye’ on (ha) so that it doesn’t progress into melanoma.

The former, the pseudo-tumor, was a bit more…daunting? It presented as swelling of my optic nerve (we later learned this was likely an effect of chemo, as it occurred a month after my last treatment).

But, of course, to save the asses of the PHDs, I endured a brain MRI (LOUD AF), a spinal tap (which I strangely enjoyed), an awful medication called “acetozolomide” that made the simple task of walking up a slight hill nearly impossible, and the “Maleficent” of all neuro-opthamologists.

But brain-tumor testing yielded no brain tumor…thus, a “pseudo-tumor.” A term I only wish I had made up.

I am guilty of letting a few too many years go by without going to the eye doctor. I don’t like doctors, and I try to limit my visits to the ones that seem the most important (don’t even ask me the last time I went to the dentist). And with a make-up caboodle’s-worth of free contact lenses from my ex-boyfriends mother who worked for an eye doctor, I stretched those lenses to last until now. So…four years.

Which means, yes. The only reason I even entertained going to the eye doctor again was because I ran out of contact lenses from my ex-boyfriend’s mom. Irresponsible, I know. But I’m getting better and better about going to the doctor, and that’s all I can do.

Regardless, I was certain I was about to head into news of either a brain tumor, a pseudo tumor, or melanoma of the eye. None of which, it turns out, I have.

What were the chances anyway?

Next week I have to go to the gynecologist. Always fun. Always delightful.

And having received abnormal pap results in the past–although very common in women–I’ve been prepping myself for cervical cancer.

Silly? Yes, probably.

What are the chances?

Hmm. That’s often the phrase I’m presented with when I express on any given Monday that I believe I have a brain tumor, melanoma of the eye, and cervical cancer.

“Those chances are slim. Those cancers are rare. Besides, what are the chances you get struck with another cancer?

But that is entirely the point.

I have had cancer. And one day in 2008 I whispered to myself, “what are the chances this is nothing more than a sore hip?

The chances were slim.

But it was more than a sore hip.

Ask any cancer survivor and I’m sure they’ll agree. One of the only things worse than living with the fact that you have cancer is the feeling you had when the rug was pulled out from underneath your feet. When you’d been preparing yourself for the likelier chance, and you were granted the unlikely.

When you became the “slim” in “slim to none.”

You remember that always because it was the exact moment you lost control. You never want to lose control again. And “What are the chances” means nothing.

So, you try (however silly it may seem) to prepare for the worst in all cases. You ready yourself for brain cancer, and melanoma, and cervical cancer. Because what are the chances?

It doesn’t matter. There is a chance. And you will not lose control again.

Which brings me, finally, to the proper point of this post: you.

I’d like to ask you the question, that you–specifically those of you who’ve never faced debilitating disease before–often ask me.

What are your chances?

What are the chances that you or your loved ones will get coronavirus in the coming months?

I’ll tell you, they are a lot more likely than my chances of being diagnosed with cervical cancer next week, and yet here I sit mentally preparing myself for the worst.

And there many of you sit at the pub, or at brunch, or preparing your normal Thanksgiving feast for twenty.

I’ve mostly held back my “cancer survivor’s view” of the coronavirus pandemic in favor of the more typical one: do your part, wear a mask, rah, rah, rah, stay at home.

But now I’m here to say this. I say it not as a Democrat. I say it not as a Republican. I say it without deference or feeling for Donald Trump or Joe Biden or Queen Elizabeth or Joe the Plumber: the control you might feel you’re having exerted upon you by being asked to wear a mask is absolutely nothing compared to the control you will LOSE in the midst of serious disease.

It’s the same loss of control we, as cancer survivors, felt in the moment of our diagnosis. The same loss of control we fear so vehemently that instead of looking forward to getting a new pair of glasses, we try to be mentally prepared for melanoma of the eye.

That loss of control then gives way to a loss of dignity.

Your bodily functions, however personal or embarrassing, are now charted and monitored and are more than just your own business.

Not being honest about your last bowel movement could possibly kill you.

The color of your pee is now of utmost importance and a matter of life and death.

At least you are in isolation, so the only people exposed/interested in the consistency of your bile are the nurses risking their lives to care for you.

It’s disgusting. Yes, disgusting. And humiliating. So disgusting and humiliating in fact that you can’t help but feel as though you’re nothing more than the sum of your creatnine and bilirubin count.

You’re a biology project.

At least when I reached this point, I had my mother and father there in the room to hug me and remind me who I was.

I can’t say this would’ve been as effective via Zoom.

I’m not trying to find out.

I’m going to stay inside. I’m going to wear my mask when I can’t. I’m not going to have a big holiday celebration.

So that my chances decrease.

I have control. Of those chances.

Not total control. But some control.

I’m not an influencer. I don’t believe my little rant here will reach millions. I have a nice little following here, of which I’m grateful. No matter the walk of life you come from.

But I have no delusions of how many people I can reach with this message. I do hope, however, that some of you will pass this on.

I don’t want you to die from coronavirus. I don’t want your loved ones to die from coronavirus.

When this is all over, those who still believe that masks did nothing to help, that social distancing was meaningless…I welcome your opinions. I welcome your “those masks were stupid” messages.

And if somehow, someday, it’s proven that these precautions were without effect, I will gladly listen to your ‘I told you so’s” and I’ll even respond by telling you how right you were, but how glad I am that we were careful anyway.

Please be responsible. Please be careful. Please wear a mask even if you think it’s pointless. Please reconsider your holiday gatherings.

There is more “loss of control” at stake than just the feeling of the wind on your chin in a public place.

And your chances of knowing this greater loss grow increasingly likely each day.

I Am A Staple in the Nose Hole of America

Yesterday I had a staple in my nose because the night before while I was wiping my face my nose ring popped out and fell into the sink where the water was running…

…and I just kinda stared off into space for a minute or two instead of springing into action and trying to save it. I think I was just so exhausted from literally sitting on my a$$ watching the news all week that I was just like..oh well...if you love something, let it go. Goodbye, nose ring.

And then I said well, better get the stapler. Naturally. As one does.

It’s not the first time I’ve put a staple in my nose hole and it will not be the last.

And no, I didn’t have a back up nose ring.

And yes, my nose hole WOULD start closing up IMMEDIATELY over night if I did not put said staple in said nose hole. (I bruise easily, bruises that take WEEKS to heal, but take out my nose ring for one night and my body is like “REPAIR!!!! CLOSE UP THAT NOSE HOLE ASAP this b**ch too OLD for a nose ring.”)

But I’m not giving up on my nose hole yet, so I put a staple in it overnight as a placeholder. You just clean it and slip it in the hole and then, like, bend the sides around to make a kind of boxy loop and voila! Staple nose!

The next day I went to get a new nose ring and it occurred to me just how funny this world is. Like how funny is it that somewhere in DC or Virginia an exasperated immigrant woman is pleading with the President of the United States to concede an election AT THE VERY SAME MOMENT when, in a mall parking lot in Upstate New York, a 29 year old woman is trying to force a wire hoop through her nose hole while her boyfriend pleads “JUST STOP, THE STEM IS MISSHAPEN AND YOU’RE BLEEDING, IT’S LIKE TRYING TO FORCE A SQUARE INTO A CIRCLE” and she cries—literal crying—“NO I PAID TWENTY DOLLARS FOR THIS AND IT’S “NO-SPEND NOVEMBER!”

One woman’s problem is a little bit more important than the others’ on a more GLOBAL scale, but in our two separate moments, they are both equally real, palpable, and very painful experiences.

I don’t know. Just…how very strange life is. How peculiar. As OMC says,

How Bizarre, How Bizarre.

I promise I’m not high, although I wish I was. I don’t allow myself to get high anymore since the tootsie roll incident of 2019 when I convinced myself Chris Cuomo blamed me for global warming and the aliens were coming for me because I knew too much.

It was just a funny little thought that occurred to me in the midst of chaos and nose bleeding.

I’m sure you’re all wondering, DID YOU GET THE NEW NOSE RING IN YOUR NOSE HOLE?

And you can rest assured, I did. I put the earring from my ear hole in my nose hole until we got home. Then my boyfriend used tools or science or magic or something to fix the shape of the stem. We had to lube the stem up with Bath and Body Works lotion and I can’t say I DIDN’T have pliers unsettlingly close to my eyeballs, but we DID get it into my nose hole.

That’ll teach me to buy a nose ring at a place that sells Jo Jo with a Bow Bow face masks. (Lookin’ at YOU, Claire’s).

In my defense, I was unable to go to Spencers because they (SHOCKINGLY) had reported cases of Covid-19.

This is how I know I could never be an investigative reporter. I cannot simply report to you that Spencer’s Gifts had Covid. I had to pass judgement.

“Whether someone coughed on the dildos or sucked on the edible panties, we cannot be sure. We just know we are not surprised. Back to you Stacey.”

But I digress.

So that’s where I’m at. New prez. New nose ring. Same me.

I think as 2020 goes on, my metaphors get weaker and weaker, but, alas, I am quite like that little staple.

I am a staple in the nose hole of America: misshapen and practically useless, but I’ll make it through somehow.

Fin.

The last photo before we lost this little nose ring down the drain. It was an honor to wear you.