Saturday, June 25, 2022

No is a Complete Sentence

No is a Complete Sentence 

Patriarchy says: if you don't want to get pregnant, don't have sex.

Patriarchy says: sex is my right to have, not yours to refuse or control.

Patriarchy says: birth control interferes with my right to procreate.

Patriarchy says: if you have a child outside of my approval, you and the child deserve to suffer.

Patriarchy says: your body is my property.

Patriarchy says: your child is my property.

Patriarchy says: my pleasure matters, your suffering does not.

Patriarchy says: you do not matter.

Patriarchy says: you do not exist except as a reflection of my needs.

Patriarchy says: if you cannot serve my needs, you have no purpose.

My answer does not change even as you raise your fist. 

        -LJ Cohen 6/25/22

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Friday, May 27, 2022

Writing with Aphantasia

This is a representation of my mind's eye: Shadows, light, static

While the term "Aphantasia" is relatively new to the scientific scene, I've had it my whole life. My mind is absolutely unable to picture anything when I'm awake. (Interestingly enough, I believe I have visual dreams - I experience them that way during the dreaming, but can't capture the visual memories of those dreams upon waking.)

There are those who believe imagination is dependent on visualization. To those people, I say not so much. (See also: 8 novels, dozens of short stories, hundreds of poems I have written.)

I create from a place of emotion and kinesthetic sensation. I *feel* what my characters are feeling, both physically and emotionally. Which is likely why I write in deep point of view - either first person or more commonly third, and never in omniscient. 

So many of my fellow writers talk about writing down the movie playing in their head and that just sounds so strange to me! For the longest time (most of my life, actually), I thought this was a metaphor. When I discovered that some people (maybe most?) actually *do* see what they imagine, I was stunned. To me, that felt like walking around with hallucinations playing in the background. 

So, back to my writing. 

I'm at the climax of the multiverse novel I've been working on for the past few years. And on a good writing day, I can get about 500 words in - a small part of a scene - and no more. It's not that I don't know what happens next, but rather what's happening is so intense, I can't work for more than a short time without needing to step away.

When I say I inhabit the character, it's very much a physiologic thing. I'm betting if you wired me up to biofeedback and tested my cortisol levels, heart rate, blood pressure, etc,  you'd believe that I was under intense stress during those writing sessions. 

That's what writing the characters from the inside is like. 

That's what writing with aphantasia is like for me.

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

I hate that this poem is still relevant

I wrote the poem, Shloshim, seven years ago. It was in response to yet another senseless, white supremacist fueled, racist massacre. Frighteningly, I don't precisely remember *which* one it was that drove me to write this. 

And now there are still more mourners for lives obliterated by hate. 

 I wish I had something comforting to say. Perhaps violence has always been the background noise of our society. Which is a terrifying reality to confront. 


How long must I count shloshim? I buried
my father twenty-one days ago. In a week
I would have unpinned the torn, black ribbon
for one final time. But every day, the clock
begins anew. Fresh grief winds up
the old. Nine new names to stand for
and recite kaddish. Each one, someone's
beloved. The rituals of loss bring no rest
to the dead. The living bring casseroles, prayers,
and pie to the funeral table. I mean no disrespect--
not to the nine lost to hatred, not to their families,
joined in their death. I don't know what else
to do so I recite Hebrew words I barely read,
transliterated into helpful English. They bring me
a small comfort as I look around at the other
congregants, men and women gathered
here on an early Friday morning so I can publicly
mourn my father. A minyan. One mourner and nine
others. One life for each of the lost. Our little
chapel has no locked doors. Evil could sit here
invisible among us, too, leaving the stricken
survivors to start the count again. 
--LJ Cohen, June 20, 2015

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Monday, April 18, 2022

I am not lazy


Nope, the dogs aren't lazy either


Some learning comes late. 

Once upon a time, I was a bright, curious child with a brain that wasn't wired along the same neurotypical pathway as most of my age mates. (Though that piece of understanding didn't come until my late 30s) And I got a lot of feedback - some meant kindly, some not so much - that I was lazy. 

 "Needs to apply herself more" was a consistent refrain on my school report cards. 

Another common theme was that I didn't stick with things. My mother always said I was 'jack of all trades, master of none.' 

If you hear those messages repeated often enough, they become internalized. They get validated. And they change how you see yourself as well as your own choices. 

So I learned to view my eclectic interests with suspicion and tried to focus on what a not-lazy person was supposed to be like. (Though I'm still not sure what that really is.)

Never mind that I completed my graduate studies, became a physical therapist, and had a very successful near 25 year practice. 

Never mind that I have written poetry for my entire life, starting in elementary school. 

Never mind that I took up long form writing and have written a dozen novels since 2004. 

Never mind that I started taking pottery lessons 15 years ago and am now the glaze technician for a studio and have my work in a gallery. 

Simply because I have had a hopscotch-like path through various interests makes me somehow suspect. And because along the way, I let other interests go, I must be a quitter. 

My past is littered with exercise equipment that turned into dust-gatherers. With workout memberships unused. Despite the fact that I prescribed exercise programs for hundreds and hundreds of patients over the years, I am shit at following them for myself. Clearly, I must be lazy. 

I am finally ready to tell that internalized voice to shut the hell up.

I am now closer to 59 than 58. Aside from living through a pandemic, the past few years have been rough personally. Between the changes of menopause, a need to be on annual cancer surveillance because of a genetic mutation, a preventative abdominal surgery, a fractured/dislocated shoulder, and a ruptured spine disk, my body has been through a lot. My left arm (broken shoulder) and left leg (S1 radiculopathy) were noticeably weaker than my right and it was interfering in my day to day life. 

A month ago, I remembered that my health insurance partially subsidized zoom based yoga classes. So I actively suppressed the sarcastic mocking from my own brain (lazylazylazy) and signed up.

For the past month, I've made the commitment to classes - 3 a week. For now, I will continue with them. Perhaps at some time, I will do the classes less frequently. Maybe even stop altogether. And you know what? It won't be because I'm a quitter or because I'm lazy. 

Sometime, we need certain activities in our lives because they serve a purpose. And it's okay to let them go if they don't fit, or no longer serve, or you discover something else better. 

So this is my reminder - to myself and to anyone else who needs it: you are not the stories others made for you. And I am not lazy.

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