Hold My Tongue

There was a time in my life when I was too shy, too reserved and too fearful to stand up for myself or to make decisions for myself. I was two. In fact, my parents were in such a hurry for me to walk and to talk, but as soon as I was able to do that, they pretty much told me to sit down and shut up.

All kidding aside, I was raised at a time when girls were expected to be sweet, happy and quiet, mostly quiet. I was so indecisive and fearful, that I really couldn’t stand up for myself. I wouldn’t even send food back at a restaurant when it wasn’t prepared as ordered.

When I was twenty-four, and single, my mother was afraid I would be an old maid, and she told me I shouldn’t be so smart or so good at sports… that the boys don’t like that.  I had a hard time with that.  It was the late 70’s and early 80’s, and mom was kind of old school. I knew if I repressed who I really was, I would pay for it later. (I was already repressing a lot of things that had already happened to me, that eventually affected me in profound ways.)

Finally, I met a man who appreciated me for who I was (was being the operative word). Early on, we had a great marriage and were blessed with two wonderful, happy healthy children. As time passed, and we were left with an empty nest, we were also left with the task of getting to know each other again. The difficulty arose when we discovered that we were at opposite ends politically in 2016.  It has gotten exponentially worse, affecting our daily lives.  I can’t express an opinion without it turning into a fight. I can’t even make a comment about current events without it being turned into a political issue. All we have left is, “Did you talk to either of the kids today.”

Consequently, I have had to return to being the kind of person I was as a child and young girl, and it is most uncomfortable. I am expected to be happy and quiet, mostly quiet. This is to keep the peace.  I know it won’t last forever; in fact, I hope it will only last for another 18 months.

For now, I will hold my tongue.

I Never Win Anything

I have entered, to my count, over seven thousand contests in my lifetime. I played the lottery (not including scratch tickets) over eighteen hundred times, and I’ve even entered some talent contests. My latest try was to enter a drawing for tickets to see Hamilton for ten dollars a ticket because Alexander Hamilton’s picture appears on the ten dollar bill.

No luck.

I did, once, win concert tickets to see James Taylor on a call in radio show. I had already seen him in concert seven times. That was fine, because at least I won something.

Stay with me here… Four weeks ago, I ran a Giveaway contest on Amazon. I couldn’t even get enough people to enter the contest to win the two prizes! All the entrants had to do was follow me on my Amazon Author page. I did gain over two hundred followers, but that wasn’t enough to give even one copy of my latest book, “Voices from the Ledge,” away. if you entered the contest in good faith, and you started following me on Amazon, then you should be seeing this post. If so, please send me a note at : judith@jtfisherauthor.com. The first three response I receive will still win a signed copy of the book. You win, I win, we all win together. All I ask is that you read the book and write a quick review.

Good luck.

Marriage is Not a Joke, But…

Since time began, or for as long as I can remember, comedians have been making careers out of joking about marriage, about husbands and wives, (more often about wives) and about their challenges. As far back as comedian Henny Youngman, who said, “Take my wife… please,” the bride has been the butt of a lot of jokes.

Now, my husband will tell you that men are personified as dolts in television sitcoms and commercials, giving women the upper hand. But I have, in no uncertain terms, set him straight.

It has been a long time since we;ve seen a husband and wife comedy team, too. There was George Burns and Gracie Allen in the 30s and 40s, and we had Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara as recent as the 80s and 90s. Some may add Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to the list in the 50s and 60s, although I don’t know if they ever performed stand-up.

I will tell you that my husband and I have been married for almost thirty-seven years. We have faced myriad challenges to our marriage, including financial issues, health problems, and other typical problems couples may face over the years. Through it all, we have determined that a strong emotion keeps us together— spite. While another comedian said this first, we stayed together for the kids. Neither one of us wanted them.

Now the nest is empty, We had spent twenty years focused on raising the kids that we didn’t notice each other, and we didn’t know each other. We’ve noticed that we belong to two different political parties, went to two rival universities, and like totally different types of entertainment. He likes his meat well done, I like mine rare. He sleeps on his stomach, i on my back. Oh wait, that might work.

As we continued to find our differences, we began to fight. Even the dog wouldn’t stay in the same room. We decided to seek professional help and went to a marriage counselor. At first, the sessions were painful and serious, but when we discovered the one thing that we had in common other than the kids, we decided to work on the marriage rather than walk away.

What we found was that we both love to laugh. We both love a good joke. We have set out on a new adventure and are working on our first stand up routine, one in which I can sit down. I am in my sixties, after all.

Life is short, but work to make your marriage last. Remember why you got married in the first place, and remember to laugh.

Don’t Sit On It

We live in stressful times, but sorry, Fonz… the advice wasn’t good in the 50’s, nor was it good in the 70’s when Happy Days was first aired on television.  And it sure isn’t good now. The saying that a burden shared is halved has more value in today’s world than it ever did.

Big girls don’t cry.

Never let them see you sweat.

Suck it up…

Men were never allowed to show emotion, as it was a sign of weakness. Women were told to be subservient in order to “get” a man, as if they needed their protection. The antiquated mores are so ingrained in our psyche, that to resist them is contraindicated by our own culture.  Anthropologists would tell you that it is part of our DNA to behave this way.

It does not necessarily have to be. Exactly when are we, as human beings, permitted to experience the human condition authentically? (I mean, without repercussion?)  We’ve seen the beginnings of it in the past two or three years with the #MeToo movement, with backlash for bad behavior, with a crusade on behalf of our better angels.

But what happens if you’re pockets aren’t lined with gold? What happens if you’re not a Gold Medalist in Olympic Gymnastics? What happens if the person who tried to rape you wasn’t a Supreme Court Nominee? What happens if you haven’t won an Oscar for a movie you made?

Then you are more like me and most women, who have had life happen to them but who have had neither the big stage nor the big name to fight your battles with or for you.  And like me, many women have snuffed out memories of some of these horrendous experiences and tried to live normal lives without making any waves.

Guess what? Big girls do cry. They sweat, too.  And after a while, they can’t suck it up nor hold it in any longer.  If you’ve ever held a spring down long enough, eventually it has to bounce back.  The energy amassed from holding down can be explosive.  Some of us handle it well, some don’t.

I didn’t.  Somebody had to tell me that a burden shared was halved.  Somebody had to stop me from blaming myself and being angry with myself and being unkind to myself.  You know, when you bang your head against the wall long enough, it feels good when you stop.

I stopped. I stopped, and then I started writing about it.  To date, I’ve written three fictional novels about some of the demons women deal with in life. “A Life, Well… Lived!”, “Okay, So I Lied!”, and “Voices from the Ledge” all deal with topics that women find it hard to talk about. (Sexual abuse/assault, sexual identity issues, addiction/alcoholism, suicidal ideation, etc.). All have been written in light fiction, approachable fashion so readers can identify with the heroines.

In essence, I’ve shared my burdens through fictional characters, in hopes that women like me will find solace in the fact that they are not alone. There is always hope.  So PLEASE, don’t sit on it…

A Letter to God

Dear God,

I usually use that expression when something is extremely upsetting or unbelievable.  In this case, however, I’m using it as a salutation in a letter.  A business letter, in fact, because I’m ready to get down to business.  I’ve been on this earth for sixty-one years now, and I have been preached to, told that, prevailed upon and flat out smacked down to believe that everything that happens in this life is God’s will.

So, let me start this letter again.

Dear God,

How’s it hanging? I know you’ve had your hands full lately. There have been hurricanes and fires, wars and mysterious murders.  There have been shady elections and strange bedfellows.  There have been floods and pestilence, riots and treason.  My goodness, you would think that you would have come a bit closer to perfecting the human race by now.  Or is that not your goal?

Although I’ve been told that ours is not to question why, is it okay if I ask you a few other questions? Like, for instance, what is your goal? Quite frankly, God, I can’t understand how a loving god can let some of this crap go down?

A few more questions, please? When will Mueller’s investigation be over?  Are Daytime Soaps ever going to come to an end? For that matter, is there a reason the three-minute story lines are cast over a period of three weeks? Do you really have to wait thirty minutes after eating before you swim? Did Trump collude?

I digress. My real question is this:  What’s the real reason I’m here? Let me tell you a bit about me, although you’re God, so you apparently already know.

As I mentioned, I’m a sixty-one-year-old woman.  I grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, with both parents and three older brothers. I’m blessed to still have my mother with me. I was thirty-nine years in the workforce, most of which was spent in the not-for-profit world, working on behalf of those less fortunate than me. I earned a degree in journalism and wielded my skills writing speeches, PR releases, and marketing pieces all at the behest of others, while raising money and consciousness of various causes, mostly geared toward the elderly.

All during this career, I was and remain married to a man, and raised two children. We had a united front in raising our kids. My philosophy had been that of my father’s: to throw them in the pool, and their survival instinct will teach them to swim in their own way. I won’t let them get drowned, because I will be there to support them all the way, but they will learn to make their own way in this world. In other words, we were NOT helicopter parents, yet we did instill a strong sense of morals and values in them. As a result, we raised two relatively well-adjusted, free-thinking adults.  Also, as a result, they forged their own paths that have taken them far away from home.

Almost three years ago, I was forced to retire early, as my employers were unwilling to work with me with regard to either telecommuting or keeping me on as a consultant.  The drive time to that last job took, without exaggeration, three or four hours round trip, depending on traffic, and I had taken on the responsibility of caring for my mother in my home. I could no longer be away ten to twelve hours every single day.

I use the time at home well, I think, as I have taken to using my writing skills in a way in which I have always dreamed of doing. I have written and published three short novels, all of which contain subtle messaging for women who have dealt with some of the same issues I have.  Although the stories are all fictional, the vignettes and the messages are true and strong, and they are all things about which a lot of women find it hard to talk. It has been a release for me, and a lot of fun. I only hope they help someone, any, if only one woman, somewhere.

The problem, God, is that I am a sixty-one-year-old woman with absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to do now.  I have no job, my kids are gone, my mom rests most of the time and my books aren’t selling much.

Since we did such a good job parenting and my children are out there doing good deeds and both in professions that help others, we (my husband of 36 years) and I no longer have anything in common.  During the time we were concentrating on raising the kids, they were our focus.  Everything else about us was at opposite ends of the spectrum. We used to laugh about the fact that opposites attract; about things like the fact that he was a Miami Hurricane and I was a Florida Gator; he liked his meat well-done and I liked mine rare; he was raised as an Orthodox Jew and I, Reformed.  But now, it isn’t so funny that he is a Conservative Republican and I’m a Democrat. (notice I didn’t say Liberal, because in fact, I’m closer to center than most). I wonder if I can sue Donald Trump for being the root cause of our divorce?

I’ve lived an honest, righteous life. I’ve never cheated on my taxes. I’ve never been in jail. I’ve looked to the stars for answers. I’ve talked to pictures of my father who left us way too early, at age 69, in 1999, but he didn’t answer back. I spent most of my career doing noble work for little pay. One of my employers used to call it “the Lord’s work.”  Don’t take that personally, God. I mean I could have said your work, but that wouldn’t have been a direct quote.

I imagine I could have simplified this whole thing by asking one question. What the hell is your will for me? Sorry, I didn’t mean to use profanity. But really man, what am I supposed to do? I have to confess, although you probably already know this, I’ve been extremely depressed lately. I almost took my will back from you and came to see you earlier than I think you intended.  That was last month. I think you were busy with the midterms, or the fires or something.

Yesterday I got a mouthful of sass from my daughter, undeservedly. It made me weepy when it shouldn’t have. I had yet another misunderstanding with my husband because we just can’t seem to communicate well. My physical well-being is teetering. So, I’m feeling kind of like taking charge again. Unless God, of course, you can send me some kind of sign, by return mail, by a text or some kind of sign…

With warmest regards,

Judy

On Motivation

Writer’s block, I’ve come to discover, is all a state of mind. I can write whenever I sit down to write. It may be the most mundane thing, like a grocery list, but I can write. Whether I can write the most profound thoughts in a journal or the most sensational ending to a phenomenal novel depends strictly on my state of mind.

My latest inspiration has been, unfortunately for me, a deep sadness. A sadness for something lost. Out of the sadness came one of my most creative motivations during which I was able to complete work on the manuscript of my third novel.  I have so much confidence in this work that I have submitted it to an agent to shop it around to publishers rather than self-publishing. An epiphany for me, as I discovered through this process that I should see myself the way others see me, not the way I look at myself, which for most of my life has been less than.

The other recent motivation came from a dear friend who I will refer to as ‘the letter’, who had the patience to kick me in the rear hard enough to get me off my f-l-a (that’s a local term for fat lazy ass).  ‘The letter’ gave me great advice, tough love and tender compassion.

The end of the story is… look for “Voices from the Ledge” soon. Because I didn’t jump.

Had Enough Hate?

I, like many Americans, and sick of the vitriol and hate being espoused every where you look lately. In the news, on social media, and even in public places, whether it is a result of differences in political opinion, religion, race, sexual preference, country of origin, there has been a profound loss of humane interaction between people in general.

Personally, and I’m not ashamed to say this, I believe it is a direct result of the acceptance of the behavior of our President as normal. His campaign was fraught with foul language and accusations, name calling and rising contempt for the institution of government. Making fun of disabled people, reducing the office of the President of the United States to a child’s game of ‘can you top this ’with world leaders who actually are still children.

The rise in racism and anti-Semitism, the disdain for Muslims, and immigrants was making news every day. Videos on social media are going viral every day of people mistreating people. Beating up two men simply because they are gay; Destroying a house of worship because it is a mosque or a temple, and not a church; Screaming at a woman to go back to Asia because her facial features aren’t ‘white enough’; Police shooting an unarmed young black man because he ‘looked’ like the suspect in a nearby robbery.

We are living in very treacherous times, when our morals and values have already been challenged by a basic breakdown in the institutions of marriage, family and education. Our social norms are not what they were fifty years ago. Some of it is because of the expediency of information in the tech age.  Some if it is because our lives have become so fast and so complicated that our home lives are strained and we either don’t have time to or we’ve forgotten to teach our children manners and respect.

There is no censorship of what we say or see, due to our freedom of speech and expression, so white nationalists can protest. So can LBGTQ, Black Lives Matters, March for Our Lives, or anyone else that wants to make a statement. However, nobody has a right to stop someone from a peaceful protest.

For anyone who has a question as to American immigration policy, who belongs here or who doesn’t, our Constitutional Rights or any other question that has been contentious and has given rise the palpable hate and disdain for each other we seem to have as fellow Americans, let’s stop for a moment and take a brief look at our history.

The Declaration of Independence, when our country began, ended with these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (implied ALL PEOPLE) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” the key points being:

  • All men are created equal.
  • All men have basic human rights given to them by God.
  • The only reason to have a government is to protect these basic human rights, which Jefferson lists as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
  • Government must be by the consent of the governed.

The Constitution begins this way: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

While the first 10 amendments constituted the Bill of Rights, I’ll only mention the first amendment, so I don’t start a gunfight. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

Please indulge me for one more historical reference to make my ultimate point. The 16th President of our country made a speech on a Civil War Battlefield which some may have had to learn about in school. Not sure the curriculum even bothers anymore because they must teach to testing or run mass shooter drills.

The Gettysburg address opened this way: “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

And closed this way “…increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

I suggest here that we start to remember the values of our forefathers and start treating each other with some love and respect. STOP acting on fear and hate. Besides, the only people who have the absolute right to this land is the American Indian, and if you ask me, we need to pay them back a hell of a lot.

I was always taught that we were put on this earth to make it a better place, not a hateful one. If you don’t agree with me, then I suggest you spit in a cup and send it away to get a report on your own ancestry.  When you get the report. Pick a country. You can all go back to where you came from… including the white nationalists who want to make America white again.

J T Fisher, Author

Miami, FL