I must not forget, never ever forgo this one shot at an honest life. A well-played beginning, the hold on tight middle, and a serene, admired, beloved end. I have been given this offset jewel of a life for a reason.
Loosening my grip on the serrated edge, I grab tight to the rafters overhead.
Sometimes I think I should just quit. The world is too ugly, too sad, too dangerous. You know like most creatives, empaths, humans we question ourselves, we overthink incessantly, coming up with a gazillion reasons why. Why not stop. And, why not? You know what, fuck it. I’m not finished, your story is not finished. Our story. We’re in this chaos of crazy together. Stuck together. What is this one life, without art and emotion? What good are words or photographs or movies if not to fill our broken hearts and empty spaces?
To replenish our souls.
What matters in these troubled times is that you look up and out and around and make something beautiful. Spill your guts, break your heart and then dig a little deeper. Jump into love. Inside the blues, inside the scary, safe nurturing walls of love, you find truth. It ain’t always pretty, but it’s always relatable. We are all wonderfully broken pieces, with smashed hearts and hopes. Humans can be so ugly, and there is so much hate going around. Pick up a pen or a paintbrush, a guitar, some headphones. Whatever makes you feel better. Whatever moves you and please don’t give up on the rest of us. There is good, and then there is good enough. You are good and I am good. Don’t wipe your tears or fears, let the floodgates pour. Humanity is dying, but broken crayons still color. God, I love that line. I love New York. She was the first city to open my eyes to so much imagination, vibration and color. Pure, uninhibited blissful art and joy. To the evil, hate filled human that tried to break her spirit, you won’t. You cannot. She survived 9/11, and will survive you. My heart is broken for the victims, their families and friends. My heart knows New Yorkers will rise, and come together in a tidal wave of good. Come together, and be better than this. New Yorkers are reinforced steel with liquid golden hearts and the frontline dreamers, artists, and inventors.
How much money and greed is worth even one life?
Shame on you, politicians for not having the decency and moral conscience to fight for gun control, for taking the NRA’s blood money and for not giving a fuck after another mass murder. Yes, I understand that pathetic argument that “guns” do not kill people, but guess what they actually do. Why does anyone need an assault rifle? They don’t plain and simple. Shame on us for being complacent, egocentric, and prideful for NOT saying NO MORE VIOLENCE, death by yet another evil sociopath. A white man who looks like us, no beard, no border, no limitations. Shame on us for offering prayers instead of taking action.
While many of us are saying here we go again, blaming Mental Illness please don’t. Anyone who plans an attack with automatic rifles and opens fire on a crowd of innocents at a concert is deeply disturbed, and Mentally Ill.
I wrote a piece after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, “I Am Adam Lanza.” While I don’t believe I could ever commit such a horrific act, I am well aware of my own psychotic breaks, and smart enough to not own guns in my home.
Shame on you Trump, you evil, narcissistic bastard for signing a bill into law rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.
The gun silencer bill, is that really next on the agenda?
That is what this country’s current administration is about.
Well, I will not be silenced, and neither should you. The Second Amendment does not apply to senseless carnage, and yet another mass shooting tragedy. Which, sadly given the number of mass shootings will soon be forgotten.
To the victims, families, friends and loved ones of Las Vegas, you have my word I will keep using my voice to raise awareness.
I will never forget.
If you think owning a gun is a good idea pray you are never, ever, EVER on the receiving end of the wrong side of the barrel.
The Mentally Disabled I know are the most empathetic, creative, beautiful souls who need support and the government’s help, not evil power mongers threatening to cut Medicaid and repeal Obamacare.
I am embarrassed to be an American. I am heartbroken, but I am not defeated. I have my words, and I will not be silenced behind the cowards who are ruining, not running our country.
– Jacqueline Cioffa
“Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong. Moral judgment may derive from values or norms (principles and rules).”
Hate has no place in the home, on the mean streets, or the man-made war zones.
Of this ugly 21st century that is so unkind.
United as one, we are not.
We are not even close in these chaotic, heartbreaking times of epic, earth shattering cosmic shifts and distorted evil proportions.
Terrorists, murderers and violent, you are most assuredly unwelcome.
The time has come to become one voice united against all that has come undone.
You are your mothers and mothers and fathers and fathers only daughters and sons.
There is no do over.
Become something better, something way better than this bloodshed battle red.
Strong, confident, educated, kind and able.
Unclench those fists and do the work.
Peacekeepers with Statue of Liberty steel spines.
Gatekeepers of a new and improved united nation.
Dump the bad man and his arrogant posse of abhorrent greedy bastards
Stirring violence and divide.
Funny how fast we forget
Green is flimsy paper and cannot till the seedlings of a good, honest life.
One voice united will not be silenced or denied.
Lead with purpose, with love, with brothers and sisters on your mind.
Hearts wide open like our ancestors.
Indian red, backbone straight, oh so pretty, honorable and dignified.
I must get moving I suppose haunted by a past and future, overly cautious and wickedly sentimental. I must walk in the present decked out in sequins and glitter in honor of the brazen one. There is magic brewing in these parts and honest living in the routine. Small town life is fine, filtering the air with H2O, and hyperbaric clean, 100% pure, brain oxygen.
Just when I think I am no more. I’m proven wrong. Just when I think I have absolutely nothing, to give, to fight, and to live. Not one piece worth living. Just when there is not one breath inside and my veins have dried up and turned purple. Just when there is nothing except black hole, bottomless tar pits and green-eyed pond scum monsters, my dreams shake me from a trance. My spirit guides dust me with just the right amount of determination while I sleep. I awake shaken, yet refreshed from the pretty rainbow, mirror ball glow of sequins dancing across my ceiling. Pinching myself, the night fairies are the miracle enough to keep on living. I get on with the daunting task of getting up, out of bed, dressed, and greeting the new day.
Is it all a dream? Did I imagine this? Which piece is the reality to hold onto? Was I ever really here? Am I living? Who can say?
My dead don’t speak to me now, so I can’t be sure of anything. The where I came from or the direction I am heading. I can only sprinkle the earth with kindness, fondness, and graceful living, learned over time and with age. The talking parrots fly above me now in bouts of beautiful memory and happy colors, the life reminders that unexplained, mystical beauty remains.
Maybe, some God gave me this curse on my head so that I would be forced to stop, slow down and listen, taking in all the enchantment around me. I would not be this kind, sensitive, flawed, gorgeously imperfect or caring without the slight touch of insanity. I would have stayed the small-minded selfish, ignorant young girl never bothering to look up to take in her surroundings. That is the only way I can justify the horrific pain and suffering running through this broken brain and body.
And the joy in knowing, that one day I will no longer be bound by the minutes, the blue planet a faded memory. I will no longer be labeled the lunatic or crazy, but will be ananta happy, safe and sound.
I won’t have to fight the spinning, dizzying head, the out of nowhere panic attacks leaving me doped up exhausted, or the unbearable despair pulsating my blood and my veins. I will no longer silently scream inside from pain and anxiety, the spinner top raring to explode.
I will be free to roam unencumbered by the weight of time and space.
I thought if I went way back in time to the glimpse of a young, healthy, happy, carefree young woman floating effortlessly on the waters, you might take pity on me. One never knows which murky waters they will find themselves thrashing about, life spares no one the suffering. The ripples shift and shape as they see fit, taking us all on our own personal journey of hardship, joy and grace. My struggles came a bit sooner than anticipated, leaving me grappling with a sickness I was ill prepared for.
Still I swim float and sink, always fighting my way back to the surface for breath and a bit of fresh air.
Clearing the cobwebs out of the way, I brace myself for the walk. I make room for smooth take off and safe landing.
To never forget the page. The page carries me when I cannot stand, crouched in fetal position on the bathroom floor. The page dreams the big dreams when I see nothing through misty eyes. The page promises hope when I have exhausted all roads and left dreaming behind. The page holds my hand and guides me towards the words that are a wee bit brighter. The snow has lost interest in this corner of the land and gone off to find glaciers and ice hills, more appropriate temperatures to visit.
The earth is damp and sloppy. It is the perfect, moist soil rich for spring planting. I choose perennials in fantastic rainbow colors, planting them with love and reassurance. I cure these plants with care and attention, with the humanistic, egotistical hope they will return many years after I have gone. There is sad, sweet unbearable love in the choices made over the course of a lifetime. My choice to continue the cycle is highly personal, in spite of all the uncertainty that lies ahead.
I love the sweet smelling purples, the sultry inviting reds, and the tropical fuschia buds rising from the earth. I cultivate my garden with deep love for spring and the seasons that follow. In my magical garden, I am not too sick to plant, to feel young and giddy with shock and awe each time spring bores hope in glorious color. It reminds me of all that has come before, the gorgeous, carefree, happy, healthier time, the easy existence and the odd, kooky characters that make up a life. The real, unimaginary ones that I have loved far too much, way beyond any possible earthly explanation. Those responsible for cultivating all the sappy, sweet, fun flowering pieces of my heart, curing them with care and healing devotion.
The page finds my robin her perfect nesting ground, granting sunshine, cloudless days and warmth, where round, warm eggs grow healthy babies. She is pleased; I am pleased as I watch from a chair by the window, dreaming of a world I once lived in.
The May snow magically disappears, melting away all worry into wet earth. I leave anxiety on the page and get on with the day, planting and tending my garden in rebirth. The thunder roars and the rain trickles down never reaching planet earth.
The seasons however unpredictable are funny like that. The sun shines from behind the thick cloud cover, mixing up the day with emotion. I laugh at the impermanence and the three-second mishmash storm from the heavens, a reminder of how fickle and fast it is.
We are ordinary beings, meager matter at a small percent.
Another storm looms overhead, I don’t fret about the daunting black cloud cover. I welcome the cool, fresh breeze instead.
excerpt, THE RED BENCH
“They don’t want you to think for yourself, they keep you preoccupied with electronics. They’re excited by the control concept, creating a nation of drones.
Soon enough we’ll all be wearing uniforms in stiff purple. Don’t do it. Walk, against the grain. In Fuchsia.”
– Jacqueline Cioffa
I am told the brain feels no pain, no pressure. That is only half-truth. I have experienced a different reality; never exposed to screaming silence quite like this. I’m scared out of my mind imploding from the inside.
I make ballsy, hasty decisions to beat down the bullshit, chemical imbalance. Humiliated, I lie alone on a gurney, port in my arm, the tacky acrid green plastic band too tight around my forehead. I wait for the inevitable, the blackout cruises my veins, leaving me in the dark and the thirty-second aftershock. I am in a room filled with know-it-all professionals scurrying to and fro; as if this was the simplest routine, like the morning dump after a cup of coffee.
A dude in white and a turban scolds the nurse crudely, “hurry up, he’s late and has to be somewhere,” the words so cold and nonchalant as if administering a simple shot.
How can that be?
When this was the singular, most critical, crucial brain saving moment for me?
It took years of back and forth indecision, yes, no, to and fro…
A barrage of loud, invasive machines and needle preparation, a whole lot of courage, desperation and moxy to get here. On some cold, anonymous, colorless, could be anywhere hospital floor, waiting for the ‘pros’ to press reset, a fresh start, brain back to zero.
The mood swings forever too high, and hauntingly low.
“Are we going to an operating room?” I ask the nurse, trembling one tear. I let only one fall down my cheek, white knuckling it. My aged, wrinkled and broken-hearted mother waits somewhere out there on the other side of the wall.
”No, we just pull the curtain,” she responds curtly to my embarrassment and dismay.
I know my mother; my resolve and courage are waiting. Anxiously waiting, somewhere out there, and away from this bone chilling gurney.
Thank God, I have not forgotten this vital piece of information. My elderly, fragile, disillusioned mother has lived this hell before. My father endured electric shock a long, long, bad dream, time ago.
Yeah, but that was twenty years past. They have come so far. They have come so far. They have come not so very far at all, motherfuckers.
“You won’t feel a thing, it’s a breeze.” Liars and thieves they are.
Crying, confused, mind-raped, beat down, my fucking skull bursting as if bashed against a wall. I can’t speak. I cannot escape the excruciating pain, pulsating through my jaw, my throat, neck, over, under and all through my head. No, this cannot be anything. This is something unlike I’ve ever felt before. My fucking head is imploding, unrelenting, unforgiving suffering and it’s day six after shock.
I’m in shock. Violated, dehumanized, traumatized and violated some more. Confused, betrayed and abandoned.
Countless pomp and circumstance, arrogant specialists have said this is the norm the first time round.
I resist, fuck you, fuck you one and all.
Give me back the manic depression. At lease I can handle the accommodations down there, deep inside the black hole vortex. I’m not sure what to do with dazed, hazed and nightmare uncertainty. Quick somebody hand me a pad and pencil, to dabble and scribble notes, the jumbled thinking. Buzz, the incessant ringing. No, I do not want to kill myself; I’d gauge your beady eyes first with the led pointed weapon and my fury on the page.
The fuzzy, dream haze state where everything certain, even the tallest Evergreen sways to and fro in a strong, gust of wind. I am shaken to the core, awake less me. Less the intricate, puzzle pieces of my person. I cry real big salty tears for my mother, her bruised, defeated heart. Her exhaustion and reassuring ways rock and lullaby my bleeding ink broken heart.
She loves me time and again, and helps put back the broken parts.
Hers, and only her love anchors her daughter’s gypsy Mustang, wild free spirit.
I am told it went well. Oh, so very well. I am an excellent candidate. I must not rule it out, stay open-minded. Fucking douchebag oxymoronic, my mind is wide-open mood swings.
I just want to hang in the dark and quiet awhile ’til the pain subsides, and I regain a small piece of my pride.
If I had cancer would you still look at me with your pity? Don’t. I don’t want it. I need your strength and resolve. Keep your pious pity for yourself; it won’t serve me at all.
Would we stay friends or would you write me off the embarrassment, the nuisance, too busy with your own chaotic life to bother with the nutter?
I am strong; I am a goddamn warrior child of God. I have endured all the various shit storms thrown at me. I have let them do inhumane, controversial things all in the name of insanity. I have the will, fortitude, and the want to beat this. But, try as I may, the various tricks and treats, I can’t quite find the right medical potion.
I am lucky, I believe in the shamans and Angel spirits who whisper my name on the wind.
Child, walk barefoot on the earth, dig up the dirt, let your fingers feel the grooves in the heavy rocks, and crystal healing trinkets you carry deep in your pocket. The spirit is sound, and safe. They cannot rape your soul, sweet girl. Remember, they cannot mind fuck your brain. Only God and the stars that came before you are real. The invisible illness is an exotic blessing, and proper curse.
Fuck the professionals, I live on the land of Indian nations where shaman healers left buried treasures, right beneath the surface.
I am eggshells’ uncertain in autumn, but the smell of promise and spring will be here.
It is my favorite season, an exceptionally warm and beautiful time.
Did I get me right, or did they do me all wrong?
Me, I’m alive and whole. I’m going to buy a badass, trucker treasure hat, some timberlands with steel toes, and go deep into the woods, where my Onondaga Indian Nation ancestors, healers and women left treasures, spirit gifts, trinkets, wisdom, artifacts, and pieces of their spirit guide souls.
I am nothing if not my word and the stories are my powers of observation.
Fuck off, quacks. I’m traveling down the “Good Red Road.”
The Unwilling Participant
Some idiot had the bright idea to hang a birdcage outside a locked window on a mental ward. It hung from metal steps dangling like a goddamn Snickers bar, only filled with birdseed and shit. The rustic, red paint had chipped away seasons past. Maybe it was part of an arts and crafts afternoon, who the hell knows? I used to stare at it for hours, tapping the glass waiting on the birds that didn’t come. Perhaps they thought if they came too close, it could be dangerous. They would get caught somehow inside the cage, the unwilling participant with no way out. I hated that fucking birdcage, how it swung freely on the wire taunting without a care.
How inviting the pretty blue sky looked with fluffy, white clouds through the dirty, rain stained windowpane. I detested the stairs that climbed towards the celeste sky and the ginormous silver contraption at the highest point on the roof. It was probably a ventilation system that circulated stale air back inside the ward. If I could just find a tiny crack in the glass, maybe the crazy inside the halls wouldn’t stink. Maybe I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m not on the outside swinging in the breeze, the wind giving me goose bumps, the sun bathing and warming my chilled bones with Vitamin D. It’s amazing how time halts while you’re pacing up and down the halls arms flailing, flying and flapping your wings.
Time keeps you stuck, staring at an old, ugly birdcage for hours wasting away the minutes. At home, I curse the birds; they shat all over the walkway leaving violet trails of mess. I’d clean it the best I could with water and a broom even though the vile crap made me wanna hurl. There must have been 50 trails of eggplant muck on the ground. From my unfortunate vantage point it was impossible to reach through the locked window. The lonesome and sad, all but forgotten cage. I’d probably wind up getting sucked into the silver vent and spit out if I managed an escape route, road kill splattered onto the sidewalk.
You won’t see a birdcage hanging at my house, ever. No, no thank you. No siree. I’ll leave the sad decor to the professionals. Funny, I wonder who had the thoughtfulness and good intention to hang it. Funny is an odd choice of a word, because the scene was not very funny at all.