Our Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”

6275825-a-pile-of-reference-books-isolated-against-a-white-backgroundI have a friend who said to me, “Words are powerful things.”  It was quite some time ago, but I believe I was saying something hurtful at the time.  And, as a writer (one of my few true skills), I had the ability to make my words really sting.

I’ve heard that there are studies in which the power of words was tested by saying “I love you” and “I hate you” to dishes of freezing water to see if there was any effect.  Reportedly, the ‘loved’ samples made beautiful crystalline formations, and the ‘hated’ samples made very fractured-looking structures.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I DO know what words can do to a person.

It’s rather hypocritical of me to be hurtful with my words, since I can still remember the things that were said to me as a child by my peers.  And let’s not talk about adolescence.  It’s because of that lingering pain that I have felt the need to amp up my words into a full-blown arsenal when I feel slighted.  It’s the desire to one-up the other and dish out more than you’ve received.

Words are indeed powerful things, and just as I’ve seen the hurt I can cause and have been caused, I’ve seen what KIND words can do and what my own have done for others.  I’ve had someone very important to me tell me how I always seem to say the right thing, the best, most perfect thing to help them stay grounded in that moment and maintain perspective.  You know what?  I like the feeling it gives me to have THAT effect on someone better than the scarring one.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that I’m in a couple writers’ groups.  We ALL have this power, and ALL have this responsibility.  Even if you’re not a writer, the pain that words can cause can still last.  I’m sure the people that hurt me from childhood and on weren’t exactly Shakespearean in their verbal skill.  So may we all bear in mind the power of words, and pause before we do some damage to someone, because oftentimes that damage lasts far longer than it took to even speak.

Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”   

  

Someone once said to me, “Words are powerful things”.

They can be used to help, or to hurt, an array that each one brings.

I’ve used my words in scathing ways, cutting deeply as I could;

I’ve also used them to let one know their pain is understood.

     I hope that when my time is up, what’s left when mine are heard

     Is something benevolent and sincere or else be deemed absurd.

     May others feel the light of love that’s hopefully interred

     Every time, from here on out, within my every word.

I have a gift to use my words in all the ways I do;

I’ve often been praised for all the shapes that I can mold them to.

But I must revere that power that I know they each contain,

Remember all the times they’re used, intent to cause one pain.

     May each sentence that I share leave no darkness that’s inferred,

     And if I fail in that regard, leave the recipient undeterred.

     Unless productive, taking flight like a paradisiacal bird,

     May no harm and only help be born by every word.

© Jordan Alan Fox 

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National Tattoo Day

June fifth is National Tattoo Day, and I was asked to write about the tattoo topic.  I had previously posted about why I got mine, so I think I’ll cover some other, broader aspects.

Tattoos, of course, have a negative connotation due to various cultures using them to mark criminals, the times criminals (or would-be criminals) marked themselves as a status symbol, and the fact that anything that breaks the norm is usually scorned.

However, in today’s world, the tattoo taboo isn’t as great.  Tattoos are actually fairly commonplace, and are seen everywhere.  Many women have them on ankles, shoulder blades, or have the infamous lower back “tramp stamp”.  Men get them on arms, legs, backs, and chests.  But why do they do this?

Well, starting with the criminal element, tattoos can mark loyalties (especially to gangs) and acts committed.  I don’t think I need to cover this realm further; I’m sure you get it.

Members of the military have gotten them to show loyalty as well, or pride in their service.  Tattoos have also been done to honor fallen comrades.  One of the coolest tattoos for military (and sailors in general) is a pair of birds.  I believe the birds are swallows.  My understanding is that when one is sent overseas, they get one swallow to mark that they arrived safely there, and get the matching piece done when they arrive home.  I think it’s an awesome tradition.

Many get representations of loved ones and pets.  And some cultures, such as the Samoans, are tattooed as a right of passage.

Of course, a lot of people in the Western World get inked because they’re trying to be cool or present a certain image, but this should not be allowed to take away from the millions of works of art created every day that have legitimate meaning, if only to the person bearing them.  And this is indeed an art form.  One apprentices before they can get a regular gig as a tattoo artist.  They have to earn their dues.  And even the finest graphic artists would have a hard time doing what they do via a vibrating needle and oft-times moving, wincing, flinching canvasses.

I realize some may think of me in a certain light because I would have to wear long sleeves and pants to cover all of mine, but every tattoo I’ve gotten had thought put into it and means something to my life.  And this is the last reason I’ll give as to why people get work done:  For many, including myself, these works of art are landmarks.  They signify where we’ve been, what we’ve been through, and where we want to be.  The only one that brings me a twinge of regret is my ex-wife’s initial on my shoulder.  It happens, but I could always cover it up if I choose to do so.

I hope this was informative.  And maybe you’ll get one of your own now if you haven’t already–welcome to the establishment!

For the Children

Those of you catching my blog for the first time will soon learn what those who’ve been around awhile already do:  I am obsessed with animal advocacy.  This ISN’T what I’m going to write about today, though.  Not exactly.

I’ve mentioned previously the circumstances surrounding my divorce, and that those circumstances centered around my stepson’s abuse by his biological father.  The trauma and emotions and everything just destroyed my family. The divorce may have happened anyway, but the abuse and accompanying trauma was the trigger.

So, how does this tie into my affair with animal advocacy?  Well, I’d gotten a dog as a way of moving on and into another chapter of my life, and the more I loved my dog (and who couldn’t), the more I felt the need to be involved with animal rights.  It occupies a great deal of my free time, but I love it, I love doing it, I love being part of positive change.  I love knowing that I may contribute to the success of any given campaign.

But I often imagine my ex-wife asking me, “Why do you do all of this for animals, and you’ve never done anything for abused children, for children’s rights?”  I often ask this of myself in my own voice, let alone hers.  I feel guilty for not doing it.  Shouldn’t this be a topic even closer to my heart?

I’ve seen what abuse can do to a child’s life.  My stepson’s reality became daily and nightly rages that would require restraining him most days, for he couldn’t get himself under control and he was a danger to himself and everyone around.  He was diagnosed as having dissociative flashbacks as the cause of these rages, and obviously these are not remotely anything a 7-year-old can handle.  He usually couldn’t make it to bed without incident.  He couldn’t even make it to school a lot of the time.

By his 9th birthday, he was living in therapeutic homes and hospitals for children in such situations.  By that point, my wife and I had already separated.  We were back together, and then not, while he lived in several such homes for the next 3 years.  Having lived all of this and seen it happen to the child I tried to raise as my own, shouldn’t this be a cause I’d more eagerly join?

He still has the rages.  Anything can trigger them.  I don’t get reports from his mother as to how he’s doing most of the time, and frankly, I really can’t stand having to deal with her anyway.  My stepson himself isn’t going to volunteer the bad things that have gone on in my absence.  I still see him every couple of months, but I’m almost more of an uncle in a way at this point.  But when I DO get the news of incidents he’s having, I die inside.  He’s 13 now; He’s already lost his childhood, and now his adolescence is jeopardized.  I don’t know how to handle that, how to accept it.  It’s a crippling feeling.

I think this is why I don’t get involved in children’s advocacy, especially that for abused children.  It might be too close to home.  I see so many things daily on the internet doing animal stuff, like dogs being tied up and thrown outside to freeze to death.  Puppies who’ve had their eyes gouged out and then shot with BBs.  These things make me want to curl up and give up so much of the time.  There’s so much wrong, so much evil in the world strictly dealing with animals.  It’s hard to go on sometimes.  I don’t know if I can do this same thing and hear the stories of what’s happening to kids out there.  I already know so much of it.  Maybe it’s partially because MY OWN trauma is tied up in these things.  I don’t think I can handle seeing what I’ve seen happen to animals happening to children, but I still beat myself about not being involved.

I can only thank whatever powers might be, mankind generated and/or higher, that there are people out there who deal with those things daily.  Some of those folks are and have been involved in my stepson’s life.  There are so many programs out there that you wouldn’t know existed.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to stomach doing it myself; I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person that I’m not involved at present.  But for now, all I can do about it is what I did back then: cry.

      

In Better Times

2012, My Personal Apocalypse: “May You Live In Interesting Times”

I wanted my blog to consist of thoughtful things, things which might engage potential readers, and to NOT be a bunch of updates on my life.  I have FaceCrook for that.  I didn’t want my page to be a bunch of diary entries, essentially.  But I haven’t had any topic ideas, and it’s been 11 days since my last post (I think).

It is said there’s an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”.  The phrase is allegedly NOT Chinese, nor ancient, but it proves an amusing curse nonetheless.  And I find myself in interesting times.  As I wrote about in my post “A Week of Friday the 13ths”, I began the year with some unexpected veterinary issues (with accompanying bills) after a clean semi-annual checkup of my dog on January 4th.  This all has come to $139 I didn’t expect to spend (on top of the $132 I’d just paid for the blood work, stool and urine samples, and office visit for the clean checkup).  The worst part of it , though, is Furgii having the seizures and needing to go back on the Phenobarbital.  The money is nothing compared to concerns for her health.

Then, on the 25th, I noticed that my email account was sending some strange emails to every email address of which there were records, even if they weren’t in my address book.  I figured it out when the Mailer Daemon sent me notices that my messages to Shop.NFL.com and some other addresses were undeliverable.  This had been going on for 5 days.  When I looked into my “sent” folder, the outgoing messages consisted of what sounded like Biblical passages followed by some kind of coding.  I had to get a new email account, and I changed every user name and password for everything I do on the computer.

Today, I found upon checking my bank account (which I do fairly regularly to double check my math) that a charge of $45.51 to a merchant (WMV*Match.com) is awaiting clearance.  I naturally thought of the dating site, Match.com, to which I have never gone or used.  I called my bank, and was informed that I can dispute the charge once it clears, which will likely be tomorrow.  I had to cancel my debit card and will have to wait for a new one to arrive via mail.  In hindsight, I maybe should have gone to an ATM to get some cash before canceling the old one, because I now have no access to money.  I do have enough food in the house, so I’m not that stuck.  It’s just inconvenient.  I wanted to cancel immediately so no other charges could be made by the villain.  After getting off the phone with the bank, I googled the address, and there has been a string of credit card fraud of varying purchase amounts all made to this “merchant”.  I happen to joyously be one of the latest victims.

Not a good start to my year, to say the least.  It’s funny because just a few days ago, I was telling a co-worker that I have always been a generally unlucky person.  I have had luck kick in when I needed it most, but otherwise, mine has been dreadful.

For example, I should have failed my senior year of high school, most notably because of my history class.  I can only conclude to this day that my teacher passed me because he liked me.  I never did the homework, I never paid attention, and my tests had to be abysmal.  But I used to talk to the teacher about music all the time after class.  I simply couldn’t have earned a passing grade based on anything of a scholastic nature.  It’s unfathomable., but luck allowed me to graduate.

My wife and I found out after moving to Rhode Island that my stepson’s father was abusing him.  Very unlucky thing to have happen (most so for my stepson).  But we found out just before we were up there 6 months.  After that time, my stepson would have been a resident of that state rather than New Jersey, where he was born, and the original custody agreement that my wife was his guardian, with visitation rights by his father, would have been nullified.  Once back in Jersey, we retained the original custody order and could pursue the eventual restraining order against his father.  This was the only lucky thing in the situation, but we got the information we needed in the literal nick of time.  March 1st of 2006 would have been the deadline, and my wife and stepson made a run out of town on February 27th (when we found out about the deadline) and enrolled him in school in Jersey on the 28th.  Nick of time.

Wy wife left me, twice, in the years that followed, but the one lucky thing for me there is that I’m no longer embroiled in the drama that has befallen my former family since then.  This is an awful thing to say and think, but I know I would have been destroyed if she hadn’t left me.  Nick of time (though the scars remain).

My first dog, which I’d gotten to help me move on from that situation, came with chronic health issues that were hidden from me by a completely irresponsible and negligent foster home.  I had the dog 5 weeks before I was able to get someone else to take him.  I could not as a single person care for the dog’s needs.  But he and I were a nearly perfectly compatible match of personalities.  It’s still heartbreaking.  My”nick of time” luck there might have transferred to poor Chance.  If I hadn’t adopted him, the foster home probably would have killed him through negligence, and the home that has him now was finally able to get the proper diagnosis for a dog that has many years to go still.  My 5-week role in his life literally did SAVE it.

I got my current dog to replace him.  She had 2 seizures in my first 2 weeks with her.  The foster home that had her had not witnessed any.  I covered this also in a previous blog post, but I DO NOT in any way blame that foster situation.  It was a young couple that worked and had social lives, and if the seizures had occurred, they hadn’t noticed them. They weren’t even part of the rescue.  They just found her and agreed to foster if the rescue paid the bills.  I truly believe them, and still correspond with them sometimes.

But at this point, my abused stepson, the woman who dumped me twice (and hooked up with someone in one of her outpatient step-down programs after she went bonkers), the two dogs’ health issues….God surely hated me.  In fact, I wondered if Furgii had never had seizures UNTIL she came here, because I’d given my bad luck to her.

And last year, I had a very bad year at work.  I had let so many of the negative issues in my life effect how I was behaving on a day-to-day basis.  I’m deeply ashamed of my conduct during the middle stretch of 2011.  I am very lucky that I was given a chance to turn myself around and was not disciplined or punished in any way, though I should have been.  I was fortunate to “see the light” before it was too late.  Nick of time.  I was looking forward to a good 2012.

And now all of this email nonsense and financial b.s. happens.  I seem to have caught both in the….well, you know.  But It’s maddening that I have to go through this shit.  I know my problems are greatly outweighed by the problems some others have, I do.  But still.

Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls”.  Well, THIS MAN wants to TRY to put the SOULS of his shoes up the ass of THESE TIMES.

“And I Say to Myself….’What a Wonderful World’….”

Previous entries of mine have talked about the evil in the world, mostly that inflicted on animals, and I am in no way doing an about-face regarding that.  There are so many disgusting and disheartening things to be seen daily.  But today, I want to do something else.  Yes, there are those things that are born in the darkest corners of the human mind, but there are amazing, beautiful, wondrous things, too.

There IS love out there, the love of people to make a CHANGE, and even to BE changed whether they want to or not.  I have been doing what I can to change the injustices out there, and I am but the metaphoric grain of sand in the movements I have joined.

I read an article today by someone who fostered animals, including dogs, but never considered herself a dog person until her family fostered, then adopted an aging pit bull, and helped him to live the rest of his years with dignity.  I also saw a PSA featuring a player on the St. Louis Rams football team for pet adoption.  I signed a petition for the protection of wild buffalo and other creatures.

But it’s not just about animals.  A friend of mine supports Somali Mam Foundation, an organization that’s fighting to stop human slave trafficking.  There are movements to protect children.  There are movements to save the environment.  Speaking of which, I received an email today that a bunch of jungle land that was going to be destroyed to make paper plates was saved, as per a petition I had previously signed.

There is darkness, but there is also light.

There are still individuals that care, saving farmland, saving the underprivileged, saving animals, saving the subjugated.  There are the people that even FIND OUT about these troubles in the first place, and act to CREATE the petitions I and others are signing, and making sure it’s all sent where it needs to go.  THAT can only be called LOVE.

It’s still here in this world, though it faces many obstacles.  But instead of focusing on those obstacles, today I want to focus on and be grateful for the people tearing them down.  Because I want to express what they’ve been expressing:  LOVE.

Somaly Mam Foundation

Becoming a Dog Person, article about the aging pit bull

HOMEGAME with PSA, PSA for pet adoption

(Look, I figured out how to install links!)

Advocacy Part III

Pardon my language, but the two most fucked up things I think I’ve ever seen were both seen this week. No other language could be used here.  I saw a dog who had a firecracker duct taped inside his mouth, and a puppy who had his face split lengthwise by an ax. Both dogs were still alive at the time the photos were taken. I know the firecracker one was not able to be saved, and I’m not certain of the ax dog. I just cried when I saw the ax picture. I don’t get it. How are people able to do these things? My hope in this life had evacuated my body for five minutes. I hate people.

Update, 1/13/12:  I have since dug around and found that the puppy struck by the ax did indeed survive, with a snaking scar traveling from his forehead to his upper lip, having missed the button of its nose.  I wish I could adopt that dog and give it all the love it could need and more, but I know it’s not to be.

 

Every Picture Tells a Story

I’ve covered some of the things that make me, well, ME in this blog, such as some personal experiences, my writing, my activism stuff.  I’ve done this because I’m hoping to make posts a reader will find worth reading while also letting that reader  get to know the person behind the virtual curtain.

I was thinking today, “What else do I have to say?”  Perhaps it doesn’t have to be some grandiose subject, though.  It could just be something of ME.  So what might be something people want to know?

Well, when someone meets me in person, one of the things that they may find shocking is the amount of tattoo work I’ve had done.  I got all of this ink knowing that judgement might be forthcoming, and there are times I’m anxious about meeting people because of it.  Even in my writers’ groups, I was wary at first even though there was every bit of possibility that any of the writers might just view it as another art form rather than a stigma.  Mind you, I don’t regret any of it.  I look at it as getting to wear my favorite t-shirt every day.  I’m sure I’m not the first person to use that analogy, but that makes it no less true a feeling.

Now the question of why I did it.

I’ve been a rock and roll/hard rock/heavy metal fan since I was 13, and tattoos are part of the culture.  It was never a matter of not wanting them, especially from 15 on.  It was a question of money and what to get.  As I got older, I still didn’t have money or ideas.  When I got married, it was to a rather conservative woman with a rather conservative family, so it didn’t seem like the best thing to do at the time.  And, as mentioned earlier in my postings, I married into an instant family, and there was always something more important on which to spend money.  I couldn’t justify the expense, and I still had no ideas.  I didn’t want to get a skull with a snake crawling through its eye sockets and a fire blazing around it all like you see in tattoo shop windows.  You know, the stuff everybody has (if they have them, that is).

But then, at 36, I was separated, and of course having a hard time dealing with it all.  I had many days with dark thoughts, and drank away a great many of those days.  I did it for two months straight when my wife and stepson moved out and many stretches afterwards.  To be frank, I think the drinking saved my life.

A lot of memories from that time are naturally sketchy.  As such, I don’t quite remember the order of events, whether the decision to get a tattoo came first, or the word I wanted to personify did.  I think the word did, but either way, what I ended up with was the Kanji symbol for the word “endure” or “withstand”.  I would start sinking, and I would tell myself, “Endure!” repeatedly until I got past it.  I remember getting the divorce paperwork in the mail one day and huddling on my floor in response, speaking the word to myself to keep from the image in my head:  assaulting my skull with a baseball bat.

So I looked up the Kanji symbol online, turned to a co-worker of mine from China to verify it meant what I thought it meant, and set up the appointment.  Now, the co-worker didn’t have the greatest skill with English, and may not have understood the words “endure” or “withstand”, but after considering the symbol I gave her, she thought about it and said, “Be strong”.  Close enough.

I still intended to have a relationship with my stepson, and his abusive father had a dragon tattoo on his right shoulder.   I was worried that having this similarity to his biological father might freak him out, so I did a “twofer”.  The symbol was to be put on the outside of my upper arm, and I would get my stepson’s initial on the inside of my arm for him as a way of alleviating any negative connotation.  I also liked that his initial would be under my arm, because it would be a way to “keep him under my wing”.

Now, I had these two tattoos on my right arm, and I’d get out of the shower, and see all of this negative space on my left arm.  The incongruence bothered me.  I played around until I figured out what to do on the outside of my left upper arm.  My last name is Fox, I love music, and my first instrument was the electric bass guitar.  So I drew this up.  The fox is supposed to be sort of surfing the bass, sort of guarding it, while screaming heavy metal style.  The cord is coming out of the bass on the left and, instead of plugging into an amplifier, it plugs into the back of my arm on the right.

The problem is, tattoos are addicting.  You start thinking of all the things you can do, and all of the places you can do them.  I came up with a family crest-type thing for my father when he got cancer (since in remission).  I made an outline of New Jersey which has elements of NJ history and some of my own history in NJ included within the outline.  I have a pair of headphones with Kanji for “music”.

In the crest, I’ve got the family name (Fox, duh), my dad’s love of woodworking and being “the handyman”, his tradition, and the most important thing to him, family (represented by the branch). He was a mechanical engineer before retiring, so the border of the “shield” is made up of gears, drafting compasses (bottom and upper corners), and those “L” shaped rulers (at the top and at the lower corners).  The Jersey one includes the phonograph, the movie, the lightbulb, and the solid body electric guitar, all invented here.  It also has the state fruit (blueberries) and the state bird (American Goldfinch).  It was one of the first 13 colonies (hence the older version of the flag), a pine cone (lower left–hard to see here) the outline of the NJ Turnpike, and  a leaf symbolizing the Garden State.  The other elements are more personal, such as falling in love with music here (hidden G and F Clefs), getting married here (the interlocked rings), and getting my heart broken here (I think you can figure that one out).

The blue jay?  I just love blue jays.  You can see an “A” to the lower right of the jay.  There it says “A & M” which are my niece and nephew’s initials.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to have children after all that’s happened with my stepson, so those two are the future of the Fox family.  To the left of the jay’s beak (above the “endure” symbol), I have the symbol for “Fox”.  I also have other pieces, including depictions I’ve made from my own lyrics (not shown).  Other than the jay, my right arm is all family and “home” stuff, and the left arm is music stuff.

I didn’t start getting work done until I was 36 (I’m now 40), but once I quit drinking so I could start to heal, entering this creative faze became the most fun I’d had in a long time, and it sustained me.  It helped me to move on.  My point in explaining all of this in detail?  To hopefully get any readers out there to see tattoos in another light if they aren’t too keen on them.  You see, they all have meaning to me, and every picture tells a story.