It’s been an INTENSE year here in Jene’-land. Over the last two years, via hard as hell work in therapy for the first time in my life, I’ve finally begun to work through early trauma, my mother’s death, and gotten at the root cause of lifelong depression, panic, and anxiety. (If you deal with any of these or any trauma, please consider EMDR; it has saved my life.) The result?
Here’s how it started: I sat in therapy one day almost a year ago, working through something, and suddenly–wholly unrelated to the subject–it was as though there was a bag leaning against the wall behind my therapist’s chair. Inside the bag was the REALITY that life was worth itself. I knew the bag was only in my imagination, but it felt as real as the couch underneath me. The moment passed.
Then a couple of days later, I wrote all morning and decided to indulge myself by watching a show I was bingeing while I ate lunch. (I’ve always been a disciplinarian with myself about television, only watching it after all work is done.) I kept watching the show after finishing eating, and after a while, my brain tried to berate me for being lazy. But the usual self-derogatory, self-judging phrases seemed far off and insubstantial. It felt like gears that no longer meshed, like a (good) virus invading my self-judging cells, like defragging a hard drive. I sat there, waiting to feel guilty; but it wouldn’t come.
And then I recalled that bag.
If life was worth itself, how would I judge this moment, or any of my actions? Was my worth tied to how hard I worked? How well I did? How much I lived up to expectations? I realized I had lived my whole life believing all of that. But if my life was worth itself apart from those things, might my sitting there longer than planned be rest instead of laziness? Might I trust my body, not assuming the worst of myself?
And that was the beginning of learning to walk again. Life is worth itself. My life is worth itself. It feels like the wildest, most rebellious concept in the world. It feels like I am a totally different person and yet the most “me” I’ve ever been. If every life is worth itself regardless of potential, performance, or production, how then do we live? How does this concept change judging, everyday life, or planning for the future?
For now, I have finally relaxed into just liking myself for myself, which has removed the fear and stress of planning every thing, of executing and living up to every idea, of promising and forcing “success” with every project. Like Harry Potter felt when he took the “Felix Felicis” potion, suddenly, I’ve become sure of the next one or two steps without (WITHOUT, my god, it’s a crazy feeling) fear of failing or guilt over…god, a million imaginary things…so much guilt.
Detoxing from making plans and decisions from a place of worry, desperation, and guilt has been a long, intense, and wonderful process. I am now sure of my next steps, a la Felix Felicis. The future–and my future projects and plans–feels gel-like, malleable, like something alive.
For now, I just rebuilt my website to reflect and make room for all my creative endeavors: writing, speaking, teaching, photography, etc., here: www.jenejackson.com. I’m also starting a new-ish thing that has sprouted from The Oat Project: The Church of Wild. An agent has asked to see an Oat Project workbook. I’ve not felt expert or whole enough to advise anyone in how to change their lives, so it’s never gone anywhere. But after all my hard inner work over the last two years, I feel ready. And a concept for it crystallized into The Church of Wild.
I am going to use any and all religious paradigms, language, and concepts as a framework from which to depart, in order to talk about how we integrate the Wild and the consequences of LIWI on everyday life. At its root, I’ll be using this way of talking about things to write a “workbook” for and based on The Oat Project, a catechism-like guide to sowing one’s own wild oats, resurrecting our ability to question and risk. I have ideas of what it might become, but my first act will be to read The Oat Project on Facebook Live, every night at 7:30pm MST for half an hour, until it’s done. You can meet me on Facebook here, watch the long first broadcast from 1/2/19 here, and subscribe to the Church of Wild channel here.
I want to face my old self and my words and this epic book of an attempt to save myself. This act, done in public is, yes, for me. But instead of springing from a place of fear or desperately trying to sell books, it sprang from a desire to face my work, to know and love my old self, and, now, finally and most importantly, to maybe give hope to others who might be having a hard time with life.
It’s a bridge between The Oat Project and its sequel/workbook, The Church of Wild…and all my future work. That first tiny inkling of what life could be like if life were worth itself has grown and is flowering into my core concept. I don’t think I can write or speak or support anything–fiction, nonfiction, rants–from here on out that is not grounded in LIWI: Life Is Worth Itself. It feels like my one core concept, the why. And though the results of this still feel all sparkly up in the air still being conceived, I’m sure that it’s my “thing.”
So, that’s it. Happy New Year! And I’ll leave you with a quote I just read today that is so very apropos:
From Ursula K. Le Guin’s speech at the 2014 National Book Awards ceremony: “Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries — realists of a larger reality.” — Ursula K. LeGuin