Purging Life

For years, I have wondered what the hell is wrong with me. Other than the already established: depression, anxiety, just generally lost in this downward spiral that we know as life. But a few days ago, a realization punched me in the face and woke me up. I mean, I’ve known this for a very long time; over the years I’ve tried to purge negativity and chaos from my life that often comes in the form of people, material things, and even thinking. I’ve always known it was a burden to carry so much, but despite the many attempts, I never did quite fully understand what I was trying to do.

I don’t know how many times I’ve gone on a cleaning and purging spree of the contents of my house and vehicle, giving away dozens of trash bags and boxes chock-full of stuff to the Goodwill or a family member. I don’t know how many toxic people I’ve cut out of my life; how many new “ideas” or “projects” I’ve tossed by the wayside because it was all just too much to take on. And I can’t recall all the times I’ve abandoned or deleted online accounts. But I do know one thing that all of these other things have in common: I’ve done them more than once.

And I usually did these things when I was angry, or hurt by someone, or because I simply lacked confidence in myself to continue. Or I took on too much.

Well, right now I’m not angry. No one has hurt me. I have plenty of confidence in myself. Things in life might not be going in the direction I want them to go, but I still believe I can succeed, that I can change the direction and eventually find my way onto the right path.

But something, in particular, has really stuck out—and that’s the part that punched me. I have been living my life mostly to suit or please others; I have molded and shaped my existence to cater to everyone else around me, and have left myself out entirely. And every time I have purged objects or people, I’ve also subconsciously tossed myself out right along with them.

I believe one of the reasons I’ve had a shopping addiction was to fill holes in my life, the same way alcohol did for me between the ages of 13-19 and before alcoholism almost killed me. I quit drinking, but then just took up other bad habits in its place. When I could afford to buy whatever I wanted, that’s somewhat what I did. Not necessarily in the form of big, expensive items, but more-so smaller items that, of course, became big, expensive piles of crap.

But no more. This past weekend, I have gone on a very different kind of purging spree. Yes, I got rid of tons of stuff, but with a totally different mindset, something I never experienced before. And it tells me that I have finally—FINALLY—figured out what I’m trying to do: to live simply, for me first and others second, and in a way that I know I’ll never be able to revert back to the old me. Because I am done. I am tired. And I am awake, probably for the first time in my whole forty-five years of life. I am awake.

BOOKS

So, one of the biggest changes in my purge is that this time I parted ways with not just hundreds of books, but with books that I never thought I’d part with. Favorites. Books that had sentimental value. Books I’ve read more than once and can see myself reading again. Books from my favorite authors.

And these two separate piles are nowhere near all of the ones I let go. It’s only digital books for me from now on—and I will never buy a new book until I’ve read the last one I bought! No longer will I walk aimlessly in a bookstore and buy books I know I’ll never read though I’ll still walk aimlessly in a bookstore just to look because I love the atmosphere). I’m ashamed and angry with myself over the thousands of dollars I’ve spent over the years, just because I loved books. I could’ve put that money towards something I really needed, saved it, or done something with it for someone else who was in need—and God knows there are plenty of people in need. What right do I have to spend thousands of dollars on something like that when people are starving, homeless, running from bombs, or dying of cancer?

Now, before you get your panties or boxers in a bunch, I’m not talking about you, or covertly referring to you if you collect books or Blu-rays or shoes or gaming dice. I’m not here to judge you. I’m judging myself, and I have every right to do that. If you’re offended, that’s on you. Leave me out of it.

Anyway, the same with books, I got rid of so many other material things that I now need a smaller house. And I want a smaller house! It has been so fulfilling and cathartic to purge my home and Jeep of all this unnecessary clutter, that I actually feel lighter. My heart feels lighter. My mind—everything. I have no urge or desire to buy something I don’t desperately need, and the thought of spending even a dollar on anything unnecessary gives me a little anxiety. Even worse than the money I have spent on books, the amount I’ve shelled out over the years on various other things, is easily into the tens of thousands.

And I hate myself for it.

The worst part about it is that I’ve always felt like I wasn’t too wasteful a person, that, yes, I did waste money here and there on unnecessary things, but that I never did it “like other people do”, but that was a damn lie. And I see that now. I made excuses. It was OK that I bought this or that because I had a legit reason; it was justified. Bullsh*t. In some ways, I’m worse than “other people” because I made myself believe I wasn’t like them when it came to being wasteful, that I was “better” than they were. SMDH.

SOCIAL NETWORKING

But my purge wasn’t limited to material objects, and, honestly, all that stuff was just a small piece of a much larger picture.

I don’t think I’ve breathed since the end of 2012. I’ve been holding my damn breath in my lungs for the past nine years. And I can’t hold it anymore. I have never been much of a social person. I lost the ability to trust or get close to others, or believe in others, many years ago when I spent my teenaged and young adult years abused, abandoned, lied to, raped, cheated, almost killed, and used for all manner of terrible things. I’m certainly no do-gooder saint, or even a person worthy to go to Heaven, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t an overly giving person, trustworthy, trusting, generous, and, dare I say it, kind and compassionate. Yes, I’ve done bad things; I’ve betrayed, lied, even stolen from others in my lifetime, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve all done something we regret and aren’t proud of. But after the birth of my third child, I left a lengthy abusive relationship and shut everybody out of my life who I had ever called “friend”. For fourteen years I associated only with family members, and people online who I knew I’d never actually see face to face. It was easier for me that way; to have “friends” I could keep at a very long distance and never have to interact with beyond a computer screen.

But even during that time, associating with others became a huge burden for me. In approximately 2009, I vanished from online, deleted my accounts and projects, and never looked back. I was able to give my books 100% of my free time. And then about three years later, I self-published THE EDGE OF NEVER and hit all the bestseller lists, and completely changed my life.

That leads me to why I’ve recently deleted my Facebook account with over 41K followers, Pinterest, all of my Goodreads accounts, and why I will probably also delete every other account associated with “J.A. Redmerski” in the near future.

But if you want to know the rest, you’ll have to listen to the continuation on my podcast in episode “I Did It – The Great Purge“, because this post is far too long already and my typing fingers are tired.

New Project: The Podcast

Click image to hear my podcast trailer!

Yeah so, against the things I detailed here, I’ve taken the plunge and have decided to try my hand in podcasting. I figured since I really do have so much to say, but I don’t feel comfortable speaking on video, maybe I could try voice. Strangely enough, the first two I have done (as of the date of this post) flowed so easily for me that I really think I may have found my other outlet aside from blogging or writing fiction.

I tried a few videos before the podcast, and I just didn’t like it much. I kept getting sidetracked by my teeth (lol), and then too much effort had to go into lighting and possibly adding subtitles, visuals, etc. I needed to simplify. So here I am now in the world of podcasting.

It is titled “Real World Podcast – Sessions With Author Jessica Tacu”. I will be talking about anything and everything: world issues, animal cruelty, domestic violence, poverty, etc. And to balance the dark stuff, I’ll also be talking about publishing, graphic design, things I love to do, etc. But one thing I really want to focus on is helping to build strong women. So, there will be several episodes about my long and treacherous journey to becoming the *mostly* strong woman I am today. I still have a ways to go, but what I’ve learned along the way I hope can help other women who might still be stuck where I used to be.

My podcast is available (so far) on six platforms, so be sure to subscribe/follow/favorite it on your platform of choice so you’ll never miss an episode.

Right now, my goal is to do one episode a week, every Thursday. But I’m also thinking about doing a shorter bonus episode weekly that will involve books – I haven’t decided!

I guess if you’ve ever wanted to get into my head or know more about the kind of person I am, then this podcast definitely offers that opportunity. I hope you’ll join me there! 🙂

What is Nostalgia, Really?

(Originally published under the pseudonym “Torvi Tacuski”)

I woke up before 6:00a.m. today after another night of bad dreams; not nightmares where you wake up sweating, but just situations you never want to face, or that make you extremely uncomfortable, or that turn out to be some of your worst fears in everyday life. These types of bad dreams happen to me on a regular basis. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a good dream, or just a normal dream. Bad dreams are a part of my life, and have been for many years. Hmm. I should do a post on my dreams, too, seeing as how many of them are recurring, and have haunted me most of my life and I’ve never understood why, and some have even been revelatory.

But this post is not about dreams. It’s about that strange feeling of nostalgia that more often than not feels like something much more to me than the firing of my brain trying to remind me of my past. The bad dream that woke me this morning only led to the nostalgia.

Nostalgia, to me, is usually mild and fleeting. But every time I’m hit by it, I smile. A real smile. The kind you feel in the depths of your heart, that spreads warmth throughout your body. The kind you long for every single day of your life (even if you don’t realize it) because, for a small moment in time, you feel real unbridled, unconditional happiness – you feel alive.

I felt that this morning. And it brought me to tears. It took my breath away.

I was sitting on my bed with my laptop and the sun had just risen. I was becoming overwhelmed by everything going on in the world, and in my personal life, and I began to feel that heavy feeling of surrender, in my chest, on my shoulders, in my hands and arms and legs, everywhere. I didn’t care anymore if all of the things I’ve been most fearful of happening, happened right then. I didn’t care. A big part of me wanted it all to happen and just get it over with. My head felt so heavy that I could barely hold it up; my vision was…strange. Not blurred or dizzied, just different. It was almost as if a veil had lifted from my eyes and I was being shown the real world.

I was ready to go. I just wanted to leave this place.

Then I heard the birds chirping outside my window, the way birds always chirp very early in the morning, as if they wake up every single day without a care in the world, joyful, undeterred, unhindered and free. The nostalgia hit me right then, like an invisible wave crashing through that window.

You see, when I was a little girl, the happiest moments of my life were in Cleburne County, Arkansas at Greers Ferry Lake where my grannie and grampa lived. My moments there growing up have always been my most memorable.

I stared out the window from my bed, tears streaming down my face as I listened to the birds and envisioned my time at my grandparents’ house as if I were reliving it – I felt like I was there, and it paralyzed me. If I’d been standing it would’ve brought me to my knees.

And here is what I saw. What I always see.

I felt the sunlight on my face as I woke from the bed in the spare bedroom, the one that faced the backyard. I felt the smooth coolness of the yellow bed sheet beneath me; the little vintage glass bottles my grannie had set in the windowsill reflecting the sunlight; I could smell the Folgers coffee from the kitchen, and the bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy.

Time skipped ahead.

I was outside playing in the large field in front of the house; from the walnut tree I waved at my grannie and grampa sitting on the front porch smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, and they waved back at me.

Time skipped again.

The Dogwood tree. The grapevine. The vegetable garden. The watermelon patch. The armadillo coming through the weeds like a monster. The gravel driveway that snaked from the road to the house; the gravel popping beneath the tires of my grampa’s old blue truck – I could still smell the old leather seats inside.

I went to the creek behind my Uncle Darrell’s house directly across the street and I played in the water, caught crawdads and took off my shoes, and, as always, I could hear the birds singing joyously. I skipped down the dirt road; I picked blackberries from the bush and smelled honeysuckle thick in the air. I went to the little corner store, “Sugar Loaf One Stop”, and I bought a push-up vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet pop.

Back at my grandparent’s house, I sat underneath a cedar tree and felt the warm spring breeze on my shoulders; Dusty, the German shepherd I loved with my whole heart sat next to me on the grass. I was so happy. I wanted to go back right then. I never wanted the moment to end.

By this time, I couldn’t see or breathe through my tears. And I couldn’t stop crying. And I can’t remember the last time I felt such overwhelming joy and sadness at the same time.

It’s now 7:52a.m. and the sun is up and the birds have stopped singing. And the moment is gone…

So, what is nostalgia, really?

Is it just the brain reacting desperately to a person’s most cherished memories? Or is it something more? A sign of something to come, something we must prepare for? A preternatural comfort in our darkest moments? A reminder that life was not always as it is now? Or maybe…I don’t know, maybe we’re all already dead, and we’re wandering around the earth searching for something. We think we’re alive, and those memories, that deeply emotional nostalgia is trying to pull us into its light and away from the darkness that consumes us every day, the darkness that relentlessly lies to us by creating just enough about life that we enjoy, to keep us tethered to this hellish existence. I know you probably expect me to list my theories now in more detail, but I can’t do that here in a blog post. I can’t do it from Jessica to you, because it feels far too personal. The only way I can express these things, these theories, these beliefs that I trust with every bit of my exhausted soul, is through fiction. It can’t be me telling you certain things, but me disguised as a character. I don’t know why that is, but it’s the way it has always been. Maybe it’s because as someone else I can tell you everything without fear, without the need to water anything down for the sake of someone’s feelings or the judgemental fingers pointing at me. I don’t know.

So, are we already dead? I don’t know that either, but I inadvertently opened a door today that I don’t think this time will be so easy to shut.

Deeper Insight Into Allister Boone – And Me

(Originally published under pseudonym “Torvi Tacuski”)

I did an interview recently with a book blogger for ALLISTER BOONE, and I thought I’d share some of the questions and answers here on my own blog, since they really do give a deeper insight into why I wrote this book.

I’ve written a lot of books, in many genres, but, as I’ve mentioned, I always feel more at home in this one – because writing books like ALLISTER BOONE is the real me. I struggle A LOT with not wanting to drop every other genre altogether and only write under this name. The reason I don’t, unfortunately, is because I make practically zero dollars here. Writing is my job – my full-time job – so you see where the struggle comes in.

Now, don’t misunderstand – I do like to write in other genres, but this is where my heart is, and when I wrote ALLISTER BOONE and DIRTY EDEN, god, it just felt so right. So satisfying. Fulfilling. The stories unfolded organically, and…I just loved every minute of it.

Anyway, here is some of the interview.

——

What inspired you to write the book?

It was one of those moments when the character, Allister Boone, just popped into my head, and his story unfolded like an avalanche. Nothing in particular inspired the story itself, but there are many characters within it inspired by many aspects of my own life—especially Ann Singleton and Chapter 24.

What was your process of writing the book?

I just sat down and wrote—no outlines, or anything I sometimes do with other books. Though I did take down a lot of notes, both on paper and the voice recorder in my phone. One thing that helped me work through everything was my morning walk in the park with my recorder—I figured out the entire book and all its twists and turns out there.

Why should people read your book?

Because it’s raw and honest and thought-provoking; it’s funny where it needs to be, and brutal where it has to be.

What is so special about your story?

It’s special to me, personally, in that it’s really a reflection of myself and the many faces I wear or have worn throughout my life. It was my way to express how I feel about life and the world and the people in it, in a way that was safe for me. But mostly, it was my therapy for lifelong debilitating depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation; it helped me to work through my struggles, and to better manage them.

Who is your ideal reader?

People who are not easily offended; who are open-minded and free-thinking; people who are not conformists to society’s standards. And people who can laugh at their own failures and insecurities—or who want to be able to.

Who is your favourite character in the book?

I would have to say Allister Boone, because while almost all of the other characters are me in some way, shape or form (except Joel), Allister is the one who helps them all. He is me in the form I always strive to be, the strong one who already knows all the answers to all of my problems, but knows how to get me to see and understand them.

P.S. The photo is of me and my cousin Buckey. His death was a devastating moment in my life. I briefly mention him in ALLISTER BOONE.

Struggling with…everything, really

(Originally published under the pseudonym “Torvi Tacuski”)

I vaguely remember this (the photo on the left). Or, maybe I don’t and I’m only trying to make myself believe I do. Because I want to. Desperately. I want to just go back in time to this moment and stay there. Never move forward. I want to spend the entire however many years God intended to give me, sitting there next to my bunny watching cartoons (what else would I be watching that intensely at that age?).

I bought two lunch boxes from eBay recently. Because every time I’d be in a flea market and I’d see one of the lunch boxes from the 80s, the nostalgia would, literally, bring me to tears. It got to where I’d go to flea markets just to seek one out.

The Cabbage Patch Kids one is my favorite – it evokes the deepest nostalgia.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is…well, there isn’t one, really. I’m just struggling, and thought this might be therapeutic.

It’s not.

I write under several different pseudonyms, all different genres, but this one always feels like home. I wish I could finish STELLA, but that project hasn’t been coming along well. I stopped writing it to write a book in contemporary fiction. It was a story that my heart needed to tell.

Update 3-10-2020 : Actually, that was a lie. And I knew it was a lie when I typed it. It wasn’t a story I needed to tell – it was one I hoped would help give me some much-needed income. I’m tired of writing sh*t for a paycheck (and not getting a paycheck) – I wish the stories I’m most passionate about writing could keep me afloat financially. I’m not gonna lie – anymore – that it really pisses me off that the one book I wrote one day “just because”, in a genre that was just a phase for me, is the only genre anyone seems remotely interested in reading from me.

I’m also tired of forcing myself to write books my heart isn’t into at all.

I have to stop it.

I’m going to stop it.

WIP: STELLA – Here we go again…

(Originally published under the pseudonym “Torvi Tacuski”)

Meet Stella (the girl in the red shirt). OK, so that’s really me. And my name isn’t Stella, but like so many of the characters I create, I live vicariously through them, and they really are me.

So here’s the deal: I suck at Twitter. I suck at blogging. I despise Facebook, so it’s OK I suck at that, too. But being terrible at engaging in a social networking society is like throwing a big effin’ stick into my authorly bicycle spokes. If no one knows who the hell I am, how am I ever going to get my work out there? Yes, some of you probably know I write under another name, and on that Twitter account, I have over 17K followers (over 40K on Facebook – big whoop! Just trying to make a point). But the thing is, I didn’t get any of those followers because of my *badass* tweeting skills. I got them because of the books I wrote.

Now I’m trying to do it again under another name. And in a genre that’s more fitting to my personality. And it’s hard. Very hard. I could tell 40K people to come join me over here on the Dark Side, and approximately 5-10 would. (I know this because I’ve already done it…)

I think I do OK when it comes to face-to-face conversation, but only in certain environments. Book signings, for example, are not one of them. Live interviews (Skype, whatever) – NOPE! I suck at all that stuff. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I have social anxiety. Technically, I have all-across-the-board anxiety and a host of other debilitating sh*t that I won’t go into. But the bigger problem is that I have a lot to say. And sometimes (OK, all the time) I feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t speak my mind. But I can’t. At least not in the traditional way. I can’t use Twitter or Instagram or YouTube to talk politics or rant about the ridiculousness of organized religion or throw my two cents in about the stupidity of the human race (tried that too, it didn’t work either). The only way I can express myself or be me is through the characters I create.

Enter STELLA. My new work-in-progress. Just like with ALLISTER BOONE and DIRTY EDEN, I’m standing on my soapbox and letting it all out. And, like always, I’m using some of the worst parts of my own life to bring the characters and scenes to life.

I hope you’ll ride along with me on this journey.

Here’s another photo of me when I was innocent. You’ll see a lot of old photos like them on my site. I wish I could go back in time, when I was still oblivious to the hellish reality of life.