A Different Kind of Crazy

As I sat across from my mother and really looked at her face and tiny frame, I saw her age, frailty and worry lines for the first time. Her life has not been easy. It has been fucking brutal. She has endured and cared for too many loved ones suffering mental illness. Every decade of her life has been spent caring for a loved one, someone other than herself.

Not like in a motherly way, but in a dangerous, ferocious one. She suffers no fools, and fought battles others could not begin to comprehend. She’s grown tired now, the cruelty of age and time have caught up with her, no matter how hard I try to stop the clock. Just stop, so we can be a young mother and daughter having fun without the unspoken, inevitable future speeding up.

It had to be so very sad, watching your nearest and dearest slip away into madness. I cannot understand her tears, fears or the fight from her perspective. I cannot know her sadness, exhaustion or disappointments.
I only know our story, and my earth shattering diagnosis. Having her as my ally, my champion and advocate of my crazy has been my greatest gift, that one that drives me to stay. Here, on earth. To come back when I drift too far off into the madness. Her voice, and stabling presence has made living with manic depression manageable. Bearable. Almost.

Some days, I am not a nice person. I can be mean and ugly and terrified. Some days I am filled with rage and jealousy. I do not want to be here, day after day enduring this pain. She understands, she’s watches me slip away unable to think straight. I wonder how it feels to carry so much weight. Some days are so heavy and dark; it’s hard to breathe. She sees how bad it gets. I don’t tell her, I don’t sugarcoat. I don’t have to. She knows.

I carry suicide in my back pocket. She understands, and still asks me to stay. It’ll get better, there’s good coming around the corner. She wills me to stay. We both understand the gut wrenching pain of suicide, and that willing it to be ok is not how mental illness works. It is a vicious, raging bastard disease and does not discriminate. She is the keeper of my crazy. She knows I will do my very best not to break her anymore than life has already.

I don’t always win, I scream and cry. I rage. She never complains; never gets angry. She waits for the mercurial moods to subside. They do by the grace of god and willpower, eventually. She doesn’t show emotion, at least not in front of me. Lord knows she has good reason to sob and sob and curse for days. But, goddamn it she always finds the joy. In the simplest, most mundane things.

We are so different, her and I. I’m forever jumping ahead, or behind. She’s not, she’s omnipresent. As much as I try to will myself happy, some days my mind has other plans. But this story isn’t about me. It’s about her, and just how much life she has sacrificed and gifted away for her family. I try to imagine all the heartache she’s endured, and the joy too. I try to make her understand that I’m grateful, and do small things to lighten her load. Cut the grass, take out the trash, make the bed. Normal things that responsible people do. All the things she taught me a long, long, long time ago.

As we spend this closing chapter together in her home, the place she grew up, I try not to wallow. I can’t help it; I’m an emotional girl. Some days I despise the small minded, slow pace and my restless soul wants to flee. Get the fuck out of dodge, go anywhere but here. Be anywhere but here. But, I don’t. Because in reality, where the fuck am I running to?

I cannot outrun my crazy.
I cannot outrun my crazy.
I cannot outrun my crazy no matter how hard I pray and barter with god.

I can’t fix being sick. I cannot be a different me. A different daughter. I would if I could. I’d be better. I would be happy and healthy and carefree. Some days, my mind spares me minutes of peace. Laughter. I forget I woke shaking, and that I will tomorrow and probably the day after. I try desperately to quiet the noise. It takes willpower, patience and a shitload of pills.

She knows I wouldn’t want a different mother, no matter how many times I scream I hate you. And I do. Mostly, I hate myself. My mind plays tricks on me. She assures me I’m okay and not crazy. I’m doing fine; everything is good. She lies; she’s had a lot of practice. I wish she didn’t worry, that life had been kinder to her. But who escapes the pain of loving and living? Nobody. Not in the course of history.

I wish for her to young again. To remember a time when she danced with my father, smiling and carefree. I would want those minutes back, more than anything – except an easier life and family tree free from mental illness.

This journey may break me, but my mother’s strong, tough and ever present love is the armor and anchor of my life. I hope it has the wings to carry me forward. She has given me more love and compassion than any mother should. Only she has seen the depths of crazy I keep hidden from the world. She loves me more, not less. And, that’s a whole different kind of crazy. Wherever I go she is the rational voice in my head, she is my sanity. She is the strength and sword walking before me. Slaying dragons and shit on a spiritual gangster level. That makes me happy by proxy.

Lucky in Loss

This picture popped up in my memories today on Facebook and made me smile. Michel and I fought, a lot. He thought I was spoiled. I was. We argued, a lot. I’d only learn in time and the passing of years what he meant. I learned so many lessons from him. How to live a simple life, to love and respect nature, to take long walks everyday, (like ten miles burn your ass and legs walks), how to laugh at yourself and others, how to work out, how to eat clean, and how to be here now. How to love. People, animals, life. The basics. All of it. Sometimes when I walk the nature trails with Lupe I can hear him, “hurry up connasse” and so I pick up the pace. And thank god for the days spent in his company in the sun, the fondest memories that a person shares with you are the ones that sustain us. I do the dishes, make my bed and celebrate another year (however hard, tragic, and chaotic) around the sun. Lost loved ones leave open wounds that become stitches in our hearts, scar tissue and eventually leaving room to mend. To grow, and to learn. The heart expands even when broken by time and circumstance. Love lives on the wind that blows frigid and in an instant, Spring appears changing her course once again. Nature’s seasons were Michel’s happiest, simplest magical place and I am still learning how to be present like him. My New Year’s wish for you is that you never give up, even when the physical pain of losing a loved one or perhaps even yourself feels impossible, keep on pushing the boundaries, stripping away all the nonsense, the baggage, the noise, and trusting you will fill the empty spaces with love, and relearn to walk again. To die young is not the natural order but a life lived full, simple and serene is a gift to be opened with gratitude, compassion and humility. Go ahead make your mistakes. Like the worst, wildest fuckups you can dream. And if you’re lucky they’ll be a person, or persons who will challenge you to get up and walk tall again and again. The nostalgic pictures help us remember we were here, and life was good. I forget sometimes reverting back to that spoiled girl, only for a moment. And then I remember how lucky in love I have been. 

If I Could

I cannot walk through the grief for you. I would if I could.
I cannot cry the tears that pour like a fountain. I would if I could.
I cannot understand the pain, the weight, the fear and the messy emotions that consume your broken heart.
Grief is yours, and only yours.
The love never dies, no one can take that from you.
Loss.
I would carry that burden,
I would if I could.
All that is beautiful in you, all the shared memories can never be erased.
They are sacred. They are theirs and yours, one intimate legacy.
And no one, not even life’s ugly tragic circumstance can steal them away.
Now, what would they tell me to do, to help mend your broken heart?
I would do anything, so I sit silent and wait with you for easier days.
When somehow, someday far and away from today you realize you are stronger than the pain, and the tears.                                                                                       You are tough, just like them.
Not today, no no no. And not tomorrow. Not even next year.
So, we wait in sorrow and silence for the seasons to bear the heavy load.
Time becomes the sweet and sad reminder of how very much you were loved.
The physical longing mysteriously grows lighter.
I cannot walk through the darkness and your grief.                                                                 I would if I could.
The one thing I can do is be an ear, on solid ground, sitting silent with you.

One Times Four – excerpt from GEORGIA PINE

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The Cove, there was no other place Georgia wanted to be. She loved summers at the beach with her pops. Georgia pulled the rocker close to her grandfather’s, almost touching. She needed to be near, reassured by the sounds of his breathing. Side by side, gliding back and forth. She had nowhere to go, nowhere she’d rather be. Mostly, she rocked while he nodded off. He was her most favorite person. She refused a life without him. Georgia knew what was coming. Maxine wasn’t the only one with a gift, she didn’t brag. Her grandmother was a fading memory, but Georgia could still recall the tight squeeze of her hand. How overtired giggly they got when she tucked her in. Harry whispered secrets in her ear.

“Don’t let anyone make fun of you carrot top, freckle face, how you are. Someday, they will see how dazzling and pretty you are. Stand your ground, find something to believe in and go for it. Don’t look back. Don’t apologize. Be nicer to your mother, she was a free spirit once. She plain forgot. Make her laugh when she gets too serious. Protect and cherish your sisters, they’re what you got. At some point, you will be disappointed by them, even hate one or all. They might despise you, too. It won’t matter, your sisters will pick your side every time. I promise, that’s what families do. Your family, our family is bound by deep love and tradition. We are not quitters; we are backwards optimists. Takes a little longer, we get there on our time. I love that shared trait. We believe in our truths, once we’ve ripped them apart and examined the guts with a loupe. I’m dying baby, I won’t spare you, hide the truth. You won’t have to wonder where the hell I went. I adore you too much to leave you questioning my invisible parts. I love you right now, in this room, on this bed. You’re my big girl, so smart. I will miss bedtime tuck-ins, our secrets. Don’t tell your mama, she won’t understand. You have your grandfather’s eyes, and my cautious curiosity. Close your tired eyes, tomorrow we’ll go to the beach. Hug your grandfather when he gets sad. He’ll need you Georgia Pine, when I go.

Georgia looks at Harry through the puzzled eyes of an eight year old. Hush don’t be afraid, life is about coming and going.”

excerpt from the book GEORGIA PINE

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GEORGIA PINE, the sequel to THE VAST LANDSCAPE

Indelible characters worthy of the big screen -GEORGIA PINE

5.0 out of 5 stars GEORGIA PINE by Jacqueline Cioffa

FOREST CREATURES & WOODLANDS-6

GEORGIA PINE (Kindle Edition)

“An amazing read. The author weaves tragedy, love, family, suspense and disappointment into an amazing story. I have not read The Vast Landscape yet but after this, I know I’ll be adding it to my list of must read books. This is great fictional account of a tortured soul in the form of a fast-paced story painted with poetic scenes.

I was completely immersed in the story as the author switches from past to present. This is an engrossing read you will definitely think about long after you have finished it. An author who has poured her soul into creating incredible characters that are worthy of the big screen.” –Amazon Review

***I received a free book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.***

Georgia Pine

These Modern Ties

These Modern Ties

By Jacqueline Cioffa

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You know what I despise sometimes?

Visualize your best life,’ social media posts. If only you meditated longer, dreamt bigger, brighter and better… a gulf stream, rolls royce and diamond solitaire would magically appear via Amazon. All your grandiose desires, jubilee shrieks and pixie dust sparkle whims before you and not behind. If I were a blonde, bombshell genie in a magic bottle… I’d obliterate global warming, nukes, little girls with shredded self- esteem, cancer, homelessness, poverty. Name it. Go ahead…make your wish. I’d stomp out every single injustice; I’d balance the scales.

Christ I hate when someone writes, living their best life.’

It’s preposterous, deluded, and downright denial.

At times.

We are granted breadcrumbs of serenity; uncatchable, unmatchable, untouchable moments when life feels happy and snug. Calm and wonder overflow, and JOY is easily accessible. Perhaps. Yes, a few lucky upturned frowns sounds about right.  

Time is spent de-cluterizing, looking back and leaping ahead. Humans are predictable. They prefer to skip past the hard questions. Me? I can’t seem to stop the verbal diarrhea, pondering, squirming and searching. Why don’t the scales even out? Why does the too young, too beautiful, sticky sweet new mother die? Her babes left to fend for themselves. Why do gray cover clouds mask the sun? Why is it mother knows best not to ask unanswerable, stupid, preposterous philosophical questions?

It’ll make you go bonkers, Crackle Barrel, cuckoo clock nuts.

I bet she that mom visualized her perfect baby bump life in pastel hues, fluffy white lambs and nursery rhymes. Dead dreams don’t exist, silly me.

Why? I sure as hell don’t know, but I’d like to. There are no answers when newborns know their mothers in passing, through birth canals, photographs and hand me downs. Someone’s misplaced, jumbled, embellished memories reminisced in haste.

Do not post some inspirational, bullshit quote without asking first.

Am I aware of the planetary spins, people hovering and circling around me? Did I attempt one kind thing today; did I go out of my way for a stranger? Did I do something good, something considerate without telling a soul? Did I do something for the JOY or the pain without running to boast on Facebook, Instagram, and the Twitter? Did I live behind a screen, inside the screen, was I that blind? Did I venture out to inhale the oxygen, to forget what felt safe and comfortable? Did I take risks beyond the pre-determined edges, color outside the lines, feel the rain and the sun on the inside? Well, did I? 

Well, have you?

Have I been lucky? Damn straight. Have I been unlucky? That too. Do not say think positive; I might punch you. I fight to breath, to stay, to be alive. It’s hysterical; a dramedy. This life is not about me, and yet I take it personal. I’m a blip, a speck obliterated before the wind blows. I’m not complaining, but wait…  hell yes I am. I not a Debbie Downer most of the time or even full fledged pessimist. I’m a realist, I’d surmise.

Close your eyes and listen if you’d really like to know about me.

To understand how excruciating and uncomfortable it feels to bleed under the skin. To smile through tears and forget the bad times…To declutter, debunk, and destroy the pain that comes from a chaotic, misfiring, and free-floating mind. 

Do not suggest I try harder, or swallow my pride. Hey you, over there…look at the sunny side. What the fuck do you know? Tiny moments of happy are best lived inside the heart and eyes open wide.

The scales?

I’m tossing them out the attic window. Since the beginning of time until tomorrow they’ll be teetering, tottering, balancing and unbalancing. 

That’s life.

That’s pain. That’s JOY. That’s the high cost and the low maintenance.

And this is my honest-to-God get out of my face, in your face, best potluck shot.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll post a cheery, colorful, feel good quote.

Perhaps, maybe not. 

One never knows. 

How high the highs and low the lows.

These unfashionable, sufferable modern ties.

Disconnected

Still, it’s nice to see pretty colors and happy faces sometimes.

 

 

 

In His Boots

In His Boots 

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The mementos we hold on to, heirlooms we choose not to discard and throw away.

All the traditional, routine ways we try to live inside the memory of someone, some one precious,  beloved. To feel them near in the physical awhile longer can seem foolish and nonsensical.

It’s ridiculous to think an oversized, outdated, uncomfortable pair of black boots with fleece lining and thick rubber soles hold any value, and yet.

I wear my father’s boots when I head out to walk the dog. It’s crazy, they’re too big and my heels slip and slide trying to find solid footing on shaky ground. It doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to be practical, or looking for some mystical answer or hidden treasure. The cold air smashes against my ankles and makes my toes curl. I don’t care; I like the deep freeze against my skin. The winter frost reminds me I am indeed breathing as snow creeps in and drips down my exposed limb. I suppose I could double up woolen socks, try to fill the void. Why would I? I tried that once, my feet felt cramped and uncomfortable screaming for some space and air.

To feel the empty, sit in the hollow spaces he once filled effortlessly makes perfect sense.

I don’t want to box up the boots, stow them in a back closet or even gift them away. I want to remove the black boots with zippers on both sides from the shelf each winter, and grin. Another season to make new memories together, him and me.

I will carefully set them aside for when the inevitable seasons change again, and wait for spring. I want something to look forward to.

His smile fades as time and distance creates a vacuum, the gaping, fuzzy recollection plays tricks on the mind.

Was it a false memory?

Did I pile into the back of his rusted, pickup truck for Blackberry ice cream on many a summer’s eve? Did we giggle and laugh until we peed our pants from the smell of horseshit? Did he lift me up on his shoulders every chance he got? Did his eyes beam each time he looked at me?

Did I hear the snores while he slept on the floor beside me when I was fevered? Did he count laps as I swam lifting my head from the water peeking to make sure he was exactly where I left him? I still do that sometimes, turn my head to the side expecting to see him instead of an empty chair. My reflexes and muscle memory are still intact.

Were there tears in his eyes the first time I left home and the last time we said goodbye? Goodbye for now, not forever.

Did he love me?

That, I don’t doubt. I don’t need a faded memory to feel his love in my bones and smiling under my skin. His grin is the brightest, fondest memory I hold. My heart and his are forever entwined.
Still, doesn’t make the missing any easier.

I wear his boots and trip sometimes.

That makes me smile, on the inside.

 

To Sleep, but Not to Slumber ~ A Christmas Wish for the Brokenhearted

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Someone asked me the other day when exactly did I begin to hate Christmas?

I couldn’t quite place the precise date when the cheery, bubbly, naive child stopped believing in the magic

Five, seven, ten?

Who’s to say?

It happened all at once, the snow globe blown out of proportion and super-sized colored lightbulbs scorch and burn

I try but the sadness, maudlin and sorrow I am born
Lives in these bones, where marrow sits and blood oxygen flows

The neighborhood streets I stroll at night twinkle warmly while vanilla, clove and chocolate aroma fills the lungs I breathe deep

Are they happy I wonder? Are they okay? Are they loved?

Am I?

I am at times
It’s not all Maloja Snake dense grey mist and menacing cloud banks creeping and winding under the skin
I know this to be true beyond the sleigh bells and frivolous gifts I’ll tuck away in some drawer for a later date soon forgotten 
Later dates rarely come or never right on time
The sadness and tears well up in my eyes before I can manage a pretend smile
Half my heart belongs on the other side you see, and that I cannot fix
Time is moving too rapidly, I want to smash the clock

I greedily want to hurry past Christmas Day and the sad memories missing the magic pieces I can’t reclaim even seconds gone by

I am not afraid of death, not really
I welcome the quieting freedom and serenity of my orbs, the peace she’ll bring
Living with a serious mental illness there is no room for false niceties, unrealistic dreams, Santa Claus frosted cookies and cold milk in a crystal glass left on an end table
Who drinks the milk anyway, does it get tossed?

I die each time I lose my mind, bits and pieces gone forever, and missing memories I shan’t recover

The spirit gets discouraged, wants to quit, to scream fuck it

What exactly are you hoping for when the future is not a guarantee?

Being alive scares the shit out of me, it’s the goiter in my throat and sugar overload tummy ache

I am terrified of being alone

I am terrified of losing my Christmas people and the only ones I have needed

I am terrified peering through the white light wreathes, red ribbon bow glass panes filled with pretty, fresh linen tablecloth settings, red poinsettias, little ones smiling and dancing in plaid flannel PJs
I am terrified of shiny new-new families while I grow old

I hate Christmas

There, I said it

I hate Christmas because it’s the in your face reminder of the incredible luck I have been blessed with and the over-abundant love and over-bearing souls

A mother who cannot stay here forever, with me, a brother who challenges my every word and makes me fight hard, harder

For them, I am more than nobody

I am worthy

I’ve always been worth it no matter the mad hatter, nuttier than a fruit-bread, fruit-loaf, fruitcake (gross), or some idiot’s ignorant punchline I bear
 
There’s a tiny, rundown white house up the street where an elderly man lives.
 
His name is Ed, he doesn’t have any lights or decorations, or any visitors cars parked outside his door
 
Ed fell last winter, it was 10 degrees and I stayed with him, helped get him back into his car and to safety
 
He stopped me recently
I’d forgotten all about it and said, “hey, are you that Cioffa girl who helped last winter?”

I nodded and smiled, “no big deal.”

I am that Cioffa girl I thought to myself smiling proud 

“I’m Ed.”
“Hi Ed.”
I don’t think Ed has anyone, and he really is HOME ALONE on Christmas.
 
When I’m presented with difficult, challenging, scary and uncomfortable situations which is often,
I always ask what would my father do?
 
I didn’t try to fight or hold back the river of tears because missing him and the crucial piece of my heart he holds, is misery.

I hate Christmas because nothing stays the same, and life moves forward exactly as it should

I cry, weep and let it spill onto the pillowcase as I close my weary eyes

I can see his beautiful smile, feel his goodness and understand he is here with me despite my doubts

Encompassing me in a safety bubble of the most spectacular pretty, plentiful colorful Christmas magic

“Go on you silly girl, you have everything
You do
Bring Ed some cookies, your mother might get mad
But, it’s only pretend mad”
 
And that’s what we do in my home on the Eve of Christmas

We pretend smile and suddenly a baby’s giggles are infectious, and tiny flannel feet pitter-patter makes life less heavy and more manageable

Makes the magic real

I love the twinkle and sparkle of the lights, I will keep the starlight and the afterglow 

As the reminder the magic lives in the light-hearted
 
 
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To believe in the memories because they are timeless
No one can take away or live the miracles, they are yours good and bad
The miracle of Christmas is the the star stuff dust you are already

 

Christmas, I hate you a little more and a little less

 

This is my Christmas wish to the brokenhearted

I hope your slumber is serene and the day’s beating heart comes tender, sweet and steady

I hope the joy finds its way inside your heart, hearth and home

“Snow Drifts” – The Vast Landscape #vignette

“Snow Drifts” – excerpt from The Vast Landscape by Jacqueline Cioffa #vignette

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The Gravity Imprint re-release, The Vast Landscape by Jacqueline Cioffa will be out soon!

“This story was quite the ride; it was raw and full of emotions, doubts, mistrusts, fame, love and it was like following a train wreck as it goes down the track.”

 “Poignant Narrative”

 “Remarkably Well-Written Debut Novel”

 “STUNNINGLY EMOTIONAL AND SOUL-GRIPPING”

 “BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN AND DEEPLY MEANINGFUL”