The Scarapist by guest Jeanne Marie Spicuzza @JeanneSpicuzza Part One

The Scarapist picture 1 Today I’m happy to welcome actress, writer, producer, model, philosopher, activist, watercolor painter & illustrator, and composer Jeanne Marie Spicuzza with the first part of her experience with a scarapist. Check out her story below and check back next Thursday for part two of Jeanne’s story. 

At twenty-nine, I learned that the word “decision” is derived from the Latin, meaning, “to cut away.” To choose one path, to sacrifice another. The losses can bring great gains, but also grieving. Our choices invite an outcome often invisible, hidden, outside of our control. To be sure, one is never the same after the cut, and we cannot go back, only forward.

My life is wrought with such cuts.

And that’s how we begin. We come from a small, warm, embracing place into a cold and open world. We are naked and vulnerable, bearing a soft and throbbing spot atop our heads, seeking closure, seeking wisdom.

I’m not sure when I became so attached to the idea of security. Maybe I was born afraid, looking for something to hold, a thing that could never be taken. It would have to be something mine, something of me… something forever. There are traumas, too, places of empty despair, strange pockets of lost time. I think that’s how I got here.

When I was very young, I wanted to be a boy. My mother was educated, decorous and passive. My father was stout, a controlling Sicilian-American who dominated our family.

One afternoon, while my mother was changing my diaper, I told her that I was actually a boy. I wanted to have power, you see, and not to bend.

“You’re not a boy,” my mother insisted, laughing. “If you’re a boy, where’s your penis?”

I imagined myself in our backyard during the frozen Wisconsin winter, playing on a snow bank below our kitchen window.

“It melted,” I answered.

Winter spun into summer. I persisted in my wishing for a shifted gender identity. I asked for a doctor’s kit for my fifth birthday. I was devastated to receive a white plastic version.

“Boys get doctors’ kits and girls get nurses’ kits,” my older sister chimed.

“No!” I cried. “It doesn’t even have a stethoscope. That’s the best part!” I became livid. I screamed, “I want a stethoscope!”

I later received said stethoscope, but not the doctor’s kit. Fine, now I wanted to be a priest.

That same summer, my mother instructed my friend and neighbor, Tara Peterson, to take me to her mother. It was to be my very first haircut.

Upon arriving, Tara disappeared. Mrs. Peterson sat me in a chair and put a smock over my tiny shoulders.

“Shag or pixie?” she asked.

“Shag,” I answered.

Now I answered “shag” because I was all of five years and I didn’t know the difference. Mrs. Peterson called my parents to see if her instructions were okay. Then proceeded to cut my long locks down to 1/2 inch. The purpose was a parental lesson in shame, to show what happened when I wanted to be powerful and in control. Perhaps it was my mother’s shame, too.

Now, my hair was weird. I grew up in a suburb of German and Polish immigrants. As a Sicilian-American, instead of thick wavy strands, my head was full of frizz and curls. I watched the girls brush each other’s hair. I sat apart. But I wanted to belong.

When I was seven, eight and eleven years old, my mother checked into St. Michael’s Hospital for depression. I broke out in horrible hives. My hair was unbrushed. My mother later had to cut chunks of my hair out, the snarls that formed in my soft, fine locks. Then her cousin took me to get my second hair cut. I got sick and cried. A few years later, I sat at my mother’s friend’s beauty parlor for over an hour while a stylist brushed the snarls from my hair. Her friend later offered me lodging when I became pregnant with my daughter, Stephanie. My mother smiled as she explained that her friend told her I could sleep on the kitchen floor.

When I was twelve, my long, all one-length hair was burned by our outdated kitchen stove. Like our cars, furniture and clothes, our appliances were used until they broke down. The gas pilot was so clogged that the oven was extremely slow to light. One afternoon, I leaned in with a match and waited. When the pilot finally lit, it blasted heat in my face. I went upstairs to the only full bathroom, accommodating our family of seven. I noticed what appeared to me to be burned fragments from the oven all over my head. I washed the pieces out. As years passed I saw a singed hair and realized that the burnt fragments had been my own hair. At thirteen, I had my long hair cut into layers for the first time. My father called me a prostitute. It remained layered throughout my teen years. Stylists always cut it too short.

Shortly after my sixteenth birthday, I met him. He was a mean and ornery boy. We dated for four months, and I became pregnant. In the state of Wisconsin in 1985, a minor required parental permission for a legal abortion. The boy wanted me to pay him to sign adoption papers. Instead, I gave him his walking papers. Then I gave my daughter up to my parents, after they presented me with guardianship documents and told me to sign. The alternative, they said, was give up college, go on welfare, and raise Stephanie on my own. How terrified I was! I didn’t know how to survive myself, or so I thought. So with shakes and tears, I made their deal in the children’s court. I felt I had given up the best part of me.

One might question how a woman can give up her child to her abusive parents. I was thinking about airplane crashes. You have to fix the oxygen mask over your own mouth first, learning to breathe in a crisis, before you can turn to help your child. So, at age eighteen, my beautiful baby girl, having toddled up to the rear screen door of my parents’ house, stared at me, my belongings piled into a station wagon, and watched me leave.

From twenty years old on, I longed for long hair. Maybe I wanted to grow some part of myself that I’d given up. And to feel a part of something. I wanted to be beautiful, feminine– alive! I began to grow my hair out, or at least attempt to.

But at twenty-one, my then-boyfriend, an abusive type whom I just discovered was cheating on me, cut off way too much of my hair. I looked in the mirror and saw it crooked, shorter on the right side– right side, father issues. The taking of control. When I broke up with him eighteen months later, I decided to cut my own hair. I wanted to show him, and my father, that I didn’t need them anymore. I had the power. I was twenty-two. Unfortunately, I cut off too much. About six or eight inches. It looked horrible. Crooked on the right side. Father issues. At twenty-three, I fell in love. But he ran off with another woman. I developed Trichotillomania, an obsessive-compulsive hair pulling disorder.

At ages thirty and thirty-five, having finally grown out my hair, two different stylists cut six and eight inches of hair. Always six or eight inches. The first was layers everywhere. The second, at least, was even, a better cut. Still, both more than I’d asked for. Still not in control.

By my wedding in 2005, the second cut had grown out, eighteen inches, perfectly even. I was in balance. Fullness and length… perfect, a blissful time. But five short months later, my day of glory ended, and my happiness was shattered, splitting at the ends.

It was to be the culmination of all cuts.

I had met her at a mutual friend’s wedding. She smiled sweetly and hunched slightly, indicating to onlookers a sort of demure, civilized submissiveness, like a fragile little girl trapped in the body of an elderly woman. She beamed with honeyed eyes and the welcoming flesh of fresh and fragile cedars.

She invited me out to lunch, and after several months and three lunches later, I found myself vulnerable, in the midst of a huge life crisis.

I had just purchased my first home. Six weeks later, it flooded. My daughter, now living with me in California and adjusting to my parental influence, had run away from home with my older sister, who refused to bring her back for nearly a week. I was devastated. My family was unsupportive, my boyfriend and future husband, absent.

The mutual friend called. Seemingly concerned, she urged me to call her. I dialed. She said she could help me. She promised I would be freer than I’d ever been.

After two years, I began expressing desire to terminate. I was planning my wedding. It was January 2005.

“I’m the first therapist to let people go when they’re ready,” she cooed, sweetly, “and, dear, you’re not ready.”

She began to tell me what books to read. She instructed me on how to wear my make-up. She told me which plays to see. Hypnosis. It was all good for me, she said. How safe it seemed, tucked inside her nurturing. And she liked to produce such feelings of security, always offering blanket and pillow, speaking calmly, delicately. So safe, I’d thought, that didn’t notice how much it could cut, how much it controlled. I was regressing.

In the summer of 2005, three months after my dream wedding, I had become successful. I had grown my hair to a gorgeous, healthy and feminine all one length, twenty-one inches, three inches from my waist.

She asked me what I wanted to work on. I told her about my hair.

One might question how a woman can give up her deepest secret to an abusive therapist. The simple answer: I didn’t know. She was someone I’d grown to trust, someone who seemed to understand my past, my pain. Someone who acted like a mother I’d never had, someone with a soft and gentle nature who seemed to truly support me. A person who cared and accepted.

Then I told her. I said that if anyone were to cut up my hair, six or eight inches of length, create layers, crooked on the right side, leaving holes where hair should be, thinning it out, it would destroy me.

I thought I’d be free of my dangers at last, my fear of cuts! The truth, my disclosure, would liberate me! And she would save me! Yes, she would. She said so. And I believed her. Only later would learn that such salvations are never what they seem. Often, these places of solace turn out to be toxic, even poisonous… prisons of our worst nightmares.

I told her I’d been having problems saying no as of late, problems with boundaries. I hated the word “should.” I was becoming very anxious. I had just returned from a visit from my hometown. It was fun. She told me I wouldn’t go back there until my father was on his deathbed, and maybe not even then. I said I had friends there to visit. I said I had a stylist there, the only one who could cut my hair properly. My hair therapist, I called her.

“That’s silly,” she uttered. “You need someone here, in Los Angeles.”

And I didn’t know how to defend myself. I didn’t even know I didn’t have to! I hadn’t yet learned to win by walking away.

“But she’s the only one… Everyone I go to cuts off too much of my hair.”

She called it “an excuse” and, for the first time of several to follow, suggested that I see her stylist. I said no. She assured me that her stylist was safe and sensitive. Would only cut what I asked. Several times. At least once for every inch.

“I’ve heard that before,” I answered politely. “No, thanks.”

After weeks of insistence, she did what I had told her I’d had no defense against. The method my parents applied when presenting me with guardianship papers. She’d remembered it. She had planned it. She’d counted upon it. Her triumph! She rose from her chair, stood up in front of me and, looking down as authority to novice, placed the stylist’s phone number in my hand.

“Do this. Call Brenda,” she said firmly, but kindly. “I want you to do this,” she added, cooing. “This will be good for you.”

And I did it! I was so excited! It was good for me! I wanted to make her, and myself, proud. I would be healed, healed at last! Or so I’d thought. And I called. I made an appointment.

To be continued next Thursday. 

About Jeanne:
Jeanne Marie Spicuzza author 2Jeanne Marie Spicuzza 
is an award-winning performance artist and poet, actress, writer, illustrator, producer and master herbalist. The author of various books, including Beautiful Terrible & True and My Italia, Jeanne Marie is published in Shepherd Express, Blue Fifth Review, The Nervous Breakdown and others. She is the founder and CEO of Seasons & a Muse, Inc., a seven-division arts and entertainment corporation, and the creator of Womanness Skin Care. Jeanne Marie has starred in movies and theatre, on television and radio, and at festivals and venues, worldwide. Her premiere feature thriller, “The Scarapist,” is in post-production, and scheduled for release in 2014. She lives in Los Angeles.

 

Combine Writing, Marketing, And Real Life. Now, Mix

Some fella I don’t know sent out a group email the other day, complaining that writing and marketing combined with real life is just too much, so he’s ‘deleting his book and shutting down social media and the blog’ until such time as he makes his millions to hire people to do it all for him.

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I get it — it would be much easier to throw in the towel and walk away. But I couldn’t ever walk away from writing my books. My guess is, he got so overwhelmed that rather than hiring an assistant or consultant to help or teach him (which he may not have been able to afford anyway), or looking into some time-saving time-management applications, he threw up his hands and gave up.

Sigh.

Let’s deconstruct.

WRITING

The writing. The writing takes time (for most of us). We have real lives, we market our previous works, we attend conferences and travel to book signings … all of which is fun, exhausting, and cool (I mean, come on). However, it does take away from our writing time. Have you ever tried to write while squished in the middle seat on a small plane to Winnipeg during a storm?

I released my latest book, Broken Pieces (currently free on Amazon for a few days — no Kindle required) in December, 2012. 2012! That’s like 14 in publishing years. Yet, it still has legs and continues to win awards and pay my rent. I’m not bragging — it’s my third book and I’m honored and thrilled to have written something that resonates with so many people. But…what have I done for you lately?

Lots of consulting and marketing (more below), but I’m also writing for at least one hour per day on Broken Places, the next book in the ‘Broken’ series. It’s coming along, but I don’t see it releasing before fall. I’m not personally willing to rush it out to meet some imaginary ‘best by’ date. I know some authors who release a book every three months and good for them. Seriously. That’s just not me. It’s not how I work. And, as I always remind myself, it’s not a competition.

Kids, my business, my family, laundry and kitchen, burning dinner…it’s all pulling at me, just like it is with most writers. I’m not different or special — my point is, I have to protect my writing time. It’s okay to be selfish when it comes to my work if that’s what it takes to get to it.

MARKETING 

No doubt, marketing takes a huge chunk of time. Blogging, updating my websites (this one and my business site, BadRedheadMedia.com), promotions, advertising, reviews, guest blogs, all the articles I write (BookPromotion.com, Huffington Post, San Francisco Book Review, etc.), not to mention my business clients, combines to take me away from that ‘balance’ of marketing and writing.

What to do? After coffee, I check all the sites and my emails, put out any fires, and then shut it down for an hour (I’m always available to clients via phone). I just see no other way around it. Facebook in particular is a huge time suck — not because I love it (it’s fine, whatever), but because of the sheer number of notifications and interactions required to maintain an active presence. My personal favorite is Twitter, and Pinterest is a close second, but even that I limit myself to non-writing hours.

How do I manage it all? I use a combination of three sites: Hootsuite (I schedule in quite a bit), Pluggio (I love their dripfeed feature), and ManageFlitter (for growth and deleting fakes, eggs, etc). I’ve written about each one previously, but they all have free options for you to try out, and I can’t recommend them all highly enough. You need these programs to manage, grow, schedule, and interact across your platform in the most efficient (yet still interactive) way possible. Remember: social media is not one-way communication to sell sell sell your books. It’s a wonderful way to interact and build relationships.

I can guarantee that the fellow above did not use any kind of time management system to help to manage his social, which usually has the biggest learning curve and takes the most time. However, social is our generation’s ‘word of mouth,’ and is critical to any author’s success. So stop whining and get on it.

REAL LIFE 

I find that most authors have pie in the sky expectations of their first book. They want it to pay their house payment or rent, send their kids to college, and cover any and all advertising and marketing costs. Not even Stephen King of Anne Rice had that kind of success with book one — and they were picked up by large publishing houses and had lots of media support! Why does everyone think that one book will make them?

I never thought that. I figured if anyone reads me, great. If I can connect with folks and develop a fan base for future books, even better. Publishing a book isn’t a magical way into some nebulous millionaire’s club. It’s a means to an end: getting your work out there. If you’re using social media to ‘push’ your work on an uninterested, undeveloped fan base, you’re not helping your sales and you’re likely spamming, which can lead to account suspensions.

I have friends who have written 30 books, have made it to the NYTimes Best Seller lists, and still work full-time jobs as lawyers and accountants and cooks. Writing as a living isn’t easy — who said it would be? I’d like to meet that person and ask them.

NOW MIX IT UP 

Use your real-life experiences in a way that can help others. From a karma standpoint, isn’t that what this whole mortal coil is all about anyway? That’s why I started #SexAbuseChat (Tuesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST) with survivor/therapist Bobbi Parish. We’re opening up a growing dialogue with survivors and families of survivors. Some of them may or may not read my book and that’s okay — that’s not what this is about.

I’ve also been able to start #MondayBlogs (in November, 2012). I wanted one day devoted to bloggers (any topic is fine). Blog any day, but share on Mondays using the hashtag AND return the favor by retweeting others. It’s grown so dramatically, thousands participate each week and generate anywhere from 5-8,000 tweets on Mondays! These are my ways of giving back. I make no money, charge no fees, and everyone is welcome.

Point is, all of it is hard. All of it matters. None of it is easy. Adjust your expectations, fellow authors…and above all, keep writing.

The 5 Biggest Risks I’ve Taken As An Author

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Post originally published on Jessica Bell's The Alliterative Allomorph. Reposted with permission. Written by Rachel Thompson. I’ve written a lot of blog posts. A lot. A lot, a lot. Yet, nobody has ever asked me before what the five biggest risks … [Continue reading]

Survivor by guest @AngieRobinson90

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I was sexually assaulted in 1986, but I didn’t call myself a survivor until 2010. It took twenty-four years for me to believe that what happened that night was really rape and to finally allow myself to feel and to heal. I’m sharing my story so that … [Continue reading]

But That’s Not “Real” Depression by guest @MsBessieBell

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today please welcome author and editor Jessica Bell to the blog. Jessica has a powerful story about depression and the pattern it takes in her life. If you are having suicidal thoughts please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline … [Continue reading]

What Everyone Ought to Know about Birthmothers by guest @jcutlerlopez

Jenny with Sophia and Orion at Great Falls National Park

At twenty years old, I found myself pregnant: living thousands of miles from family and friends, no money, and abandoned by my on-again, off-again boyfriend. Nine months later, I placed my son for adoption and entered the most painful chapter in my … [Continue reading]

The Dark Side Of Being An Author

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'If it wasn't for all that you tried to do, I wouldn't know how just capable I am to pull through, so I want to say 'thank you.' Thanks for making me a fighter.' ~ Christina Aguilera (Fighter)  Know how you hear actors talk about fame? They say, … [Continue reading]

#MondayBlogs Giveaway, Baby!

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Since being created in 2012 by Rachel Thompson, #MondayBlogs has become amazing success and it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a big ol’ smile! As a thank you to all you wonderful #MondayBlog tweeps, we have a … [Continue reading]

HopeLine Recycle Program Provides Hope For More than the Environment by Karen Ogden

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Today please welcome Karen of the HopeLine program from Verizon. Rachel has teamed up with the HopeLine program which connects survivors of domestic violence to vital resources, funds organizations nationwide and protects the environment. Read below … [Continue reading]

Interview with @JasonCMcIntyre

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Today please join me in welcoming author Jason McIntyre to the blog! Jason is the author of numerous novels including Thalo Blue and On the Gathering Storm. Learn more about Jason's publishing journey in the interview below! 1. Can you sum up your … [Continue reading]

Giveaway, Baby!

Broken Pieces paperback

Thanks to the wonderful Amberr Meadows of Like a Bump on a Blog for putting together this giveaway! You can win my books and an Amazon gift card. Details below! Bestselling Books by Author Rachel Thompson, $50 Amazon GC and $25 Amazon GC Giveaway … [Continue reading]

My Favorite Tools to Create Visual Content

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You may have noticed that Pinterest and Instagram have gained more popularity. If you haven't noticed, you need to! According to Social Media Today, photos on Facebook generate 53 percent more likes than the average post, (HubSpot survey). I am … [Continue reading]

Read This Before You SELL SELL SELL Books On Twitter

This title is a bit misleading, because I don't feel authors should be using our streams to SELL SELL SELL. I am an author. I tweet a lot, mostly about topics that are of interest to me (Nutella, relationships, love, loss, sexual abuse, music, books, … [Continue reading]

Why I Donate Blood by @K8Tilton

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Today on the blog please welcome back my fabulous author assistant Kate Tilton! Kate has been on the blog before with her article, The Balancing Act of Author Street Teams when we launched my street team The Bad Redheads. If you didn't sign up then … [Continue reading]