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necessary whispers

observe. connect. make new.

Author

jillszoowilson

"About Me" sections cause me consternation. I am currently filling with a sense of pressure. "Oh, encapsulate all of myself into a short, catchy paragraph that alerts all like-minded folks that I am one of them. Or, they are one of me. Or, we have nothing in common but possess plenty of unique thoughts and ideas from which we can learn, grow and change. No big deal." I observe the world, in spite of myself. I cannot help but look just behind the eyes, just beneath the smiles and listen just under the words. I turn observances into connections, connections into ideas and ideas into forgotten ideas that usually end up on the floor off my mind. Hence, this blog. This blog is meant to catch the ideas before they fall to the floor. Also, I act, direct, teach and speak in public, usually in a different order than is listed.

The Trial and the Verdict

Objection!”
He bellowed
In a voice too hot to hold.
She put her fingers
In her ears,
Held them there
‘Til her story was told.

 

“He came to me,”
She said,
“A traveler from the storm
wet with reflections
in the form of raindrops
and recollections
buried
but tied to his arm.

 

Like an army
of one he slipped
through my door
then tripped a wire
holding tight to desire
unraveled me and
turned to go.”

 

Go, you say?”

 

The Woman turned away,
A word tightening in her throat
Stuck between the moat
Where teeth and tongue
Articulate–
Her courage threatening to
Dissipate.

 

“Go,” she answered,
“He left as he came
with a swiftness of foot
eyes warm like flames
fingers rough
but touching me
melting me
inside and out
but then leaving
quickly retreating
an endless repeating
echoed on the smoke trails
wafting in his wake,
‘Go? Already?
Okay then, go,”
I said in a tenuous state.”

 

The Lawyer huffed
Like an old man
Running a race
At a pace unfit
For old men
Who huff instead of
Breathing.

 

“Let the record show,”
He wheezed,
“She saw him come in–
he was no thief–
she felt him approach
and watched him retreat
she should have known
he would not stay–”

 

“But he said–”
she attempted–

 

What he said
is merely heresay!
Haven’t you gotten
in your pretty little mind
the message that some men
say
and then un-say?”

 

“Order!”
Said the Judge
As he straightened his tie,
“I don’t know
what you want me to say.”

 

The woman looked down,
“Must I write both sides–
your lines and mine?
Or can I tell the truth
And let you decide?”

 

The Judge pondered the woman
Reclined in his chair
Pulled his glasses low
Down from his hair
One lens white and
One lens black
No grey in between
As he leaned carefully, close
Into the scene:
“You are condemned
because I see you thus,
the space between right and
wrong
is the space you filled
of your own accord.
Let the man go
and say your goodbye
to the back of his head.
Now listen more to what
is still unsaid–
if you cry
I will hold you in contempt
for being weak
for opening up
for allowing him to seek–”

 

“To seek what?”
The woman’s face
Grew pale and hot–

 

“The place in your heart–
you know the spot–
where softness billows,
where dreams are wrought.
Get out of my courtroom!,”
He said with a swat.
So,
She did.
The Lawyer buckled his briefcase
The Judge exited right
The Woman sat stunned
As the spotlight on her witness stand
Faded into night.

 

Copyright: Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo credit: p e t e r k e r t i s

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Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault

Why Women Don’t Report, by Jill Szoo Wilson
Now that the Kavanaugh vote is over, I would like to share my thoughts on why women may not report a sexual assault. Keep in mind, I am no psychologist or doctor or lawyer. Just a regular lady.  
First of all, being assaulted can feel embarrassing for many reasons. It can feel embarrassing because if a woman thinks herself strong of mind, body and emotions, she may assume that in the moment when an assault occurs she will react out of her strength. That isn’t necessarily what happens though. Instead, she may react out of fear, thus all of the plans she thought she so carefully made to stop or withstand the assault may be tied up in the lassos of fright or freeze when the time actually comes. She may later think to herself, “Why didn’t I DO something?” And that thought could lead to a feeling of embarrassment. 
Second, some men have a way of asserting their power through manipulation. Women do this, too, but in this post about why women don’t report, let’s stick to the man being the “bad guy.” Men who are willing to manipulate a woman into trusting him will also later manipulate her into not reporting his violent or aggressive behavior. A man does not suddenly become a different man. Instead, he remains the same and shifts the focus of his manipulation from opening a woman up to shutting her up. This is especially evident when the man has some form of power, whether that be political, social, economic, etc.  
Third, she doesn’t want to say anything to the wrong person, thus creating a situation in which her private story might become public. That may sound like a political statement on this particular day but is NOT meant to be. Let me say it another way, too . . . if a woman chooses to face a sexual assault, rather than attempting to bury it in the annals of her heart and soul, she most often goes to someone she trusts. And, hopefully, she will end up in a therapists office where some very intense, excruciating but freeing work can be done within her own psyche. Eventually, she can come to a place of light and freedom, thus returning her heart to a place where it can run with joy and clarity. This process is painstaking. Difficult. Life altering. If someone gets a hold of her story before she has a chance to get all the way through to the end of it, it can stir up a lot of damaging emotions, such as intense fear, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Gossips, in these scenarios, or anyone who would try to force her into speaking up could damage a woman’s confidence and sense of well being.
Fourth, sometimes the perpetrator will try to head the woman off at the pass. He will say things like, “Oh, she’s just a liar,” Or, “She’s crazy.” Or, “What a bitch.” These derogatory phrases are meant to be signals to other men that the victim is not to be believed. So, by the time she comes to a place of being ready to report, her reputation is already soiled so she knows no one will believe her.  
Fifth, when the man is someone who is known by the woman, there is a disconcerting and confusing moment when friend becomes foe. Somewhere between trust and the stabs of instinct she has a choice as to how she is going to relate to the man in the moment. “Do I suddenly start fighting this man who has been my friend? Or, “What did I just say or do that made him think this is okay?” Or, “Just don’t make him angry.” Known perpetrators tend to leave the most psychologically damaging wounds because they can leave a scar of general distrust.
I do believe women, by the way. Until there is a reason not to. I also believe men. Until there is a reason not to. Neither of those things changes the fact that women DO have reason to fear reporting sexual assault. I hope that won’t get lost in all this political quagmire.

—-

Artists and Depression

I recently read an article in which the author linked depression and the artistic temperament. At first glance, I was a little annoyed. The whole “depressed writer,” “melancholy comedian,” “chaotic performer” thing seems to me a dangerous sort of stereotype to propagate and to buy into. Plus, I know plenty of artistic types who do not struggle with depression. I think.

 

I think it’s a dangerous stereotype because sometimes artists believe that if they seek treatment for their mental health issues, they will lose the edge they otherwise have to create. And I understand the fear. Antidepressants—especially when they are first taken—can cause foggy thinking, fatigue, a dulling of the emotions and/or other physical side effects that can simply be emotionally exhausting. But I don’t think any of the things I just mentioned are the reason artists sometimes choose not to take their meds. I think the bigger reason is that antidepressants lift the mood from the darker places of the mind. Those dark nights of the soul through which many artists create do provide a certain kind of raw availability that allow him/her to grab onto the minds of the viewers (or readers) and to pull them into the heights of the imagination, as well as into the depths and corners and sink holes of life.

 

Also, artists search. I will speak for myself: I am on a constant quest to do exactly what Walter Mitty urges us to do in his film, “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel.” That is, after all, the purpose of life, right? Searches, journeys, quests . . . these are the reasons I create. When I am acting, directing, drawing or writing I am striving to understand. Understand what? That depends on the day. The what changes but the why remains consistent: connection. I create in an effort to connect.

 

Depression makes it hard to connect. Not only with other people but, sometimes, with one’s self. In the moments—or seasons—of isolation that occur within the darker nights of depression, an artist can turn to her art. She can reach inside her thoughts with one hand, grab onto some truth worth exploring with the other, and then pull herself into the exploration: through words, paint, music, a character . . . she can connect with the world through her own creative sensibility. I think maybe she gets used to connecting to her world in that way because connecting one’s self to ideas is a lot easier than connecting to other people. Connecting the deeper parts of one’s self to a concept or a universal truth is easier than connecting one’s self to another person’s individual truth. An artist can work on her art in isolation, thus connecting to thought, but she cannot build relationships in isolation because relationships require a mutual agreement to engage. Thus, the artist can explore ideas, including her own depression, without fear of being discovered. In fact, quite often, it is the artist who appears in her own work . . . some version or angle of herself can be found in one piece, while a completely different side or struggle can be found in another.

 

Something I have come to learn as an observer of art is that if you spend time with one artist’s work—if you take time to study her progression over time—you will come to know the artist herself. Not in totality, but in her parts. If you watch, look, listen or read any artist, you will certainly be filled with connective topics to discuss at once upon meeting her in real life. All of her parts are there in some measure.

 

I don’t often talk about my battle with depression. I almost called it a “struggle,” but that would be sugar coating it. It is a battle and I fight to win the war more often than I would ever let on to anyone else. I don’t keep my battle quiet out of fear of rejection or pride (I think) but, instead, I keep it quiet because I don’t like to complain. I don’t like to feel helpless or to appear helpless. I don’t like to be complicated or make others’ lives more difficult by adding my own burden into the baskets of their minds. I prefer not to need help (okay, that’s prideful) and I do prefer to be the one people come to for strength. Whatever “strength” means.

 

Lately, I have been realizing that my “strength” may never have been what I thought it was. I don’t mean I never had any or that I don’t have any now. What I mean is that the anatomy of my strength is not toughness or an ability to “power up” against people or things. My strength is not loud or boisterous. It does not run or flex or (something). My strength is simple: it is showing up. My strength is in listening, taking steps toward sharing my own life and in making connections between me and others, as well as making connections between people and ideas.

 

That’s kind of it. My strength is a journey from my heart to the heart’s of others. Whether it be students, friends, family, colleagues or even strangers, my strength is in seeing others.

 

So, as an artist who is depressed more than she will ever give into or let on, I would like to show myself. I would like to raise my hand and say, “I will allow you to see my hand here as one who is on a journey wearing a backpack filled with depression. There are other things in there, too. There is also laughter, questions, memories, dreams, curiosities and a whole lot of love. And . . . I see you, too.”

 

Copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo Credit: The featured painting was created by Antoine Josse.  Please feel free to visit his Facebook page: Antoine Josse’s Facebook

Into the Woods and Out of the Woods

The most memorable moment I have ever experienced in the theatre occurred when I was sitting in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015. It was my sister’s first year as an actress at OSF and she was playing Cinderella in their production of Into the Woods. In general, I am not a big fan of musicals but I was a little bit in awe of my “little” sister and her new home-away-from-home—both environmentally and professionally—so I was pretty excited to be sitting in the audience.

 

Environmentally, Ashland, Oregon is one of the most beautiful little towns to which I have travelled. It is replete with mountains to hike, a valley to explore and the kind of blue sky you assume you can reach up and touch. Professionally, OSF can be considered a mecca for professional actors. If you have been hired there, it is likely you will have the opportunity to play upon their boards for as long as you wish to stay. And so, in my sister’s first year she played two leads in two of their musicals . . . not bad for a kid who started out saying, “I never want to be an actor like my big sister.”

 

The memorable moment to which I am referring above occurred during the finale of Into the Woods. It was a cool summer night and the stars seemed so close in the open-air theatre, I assume they also had to pay admission to watch the show. For the final number of the play, the entire company is on stage and they are singing about the journeys each of their characters have taken throughout the story. All of their journeys are rife with struggle, darkness and light, and instances in which they individually lose their way but, eventually, make their way out of the woods, again. In case you haven’t seen the play, the woods are a metaphor for walking through the dangerous, difficult places in life for the purpose of facing the dangerous, difficult places in one’s own heart and mind. At the very end of the final song, the lyrics seem to turn the focus from the characters on stage and turn a proverbial mirror toward the audience. Almost as a challenge:

 

All: Into the woods–you have to grope,

But that’s the way you learn to cope.

Into the woods to find there’s hope

Of getting through the journey.

Into the woods, each time you go,

There’s more to learn of what you know.

Into the woods, but not too slow–

Into the woods, it’s nearing midnight–

Into the woods to mind the wolf,

To heed the witch, to honor the giant,

To mind, to heed, to find, to think, to teach, to join, to go to the Festival!

Into the woods,

Into the woods,

Into the woods,

Then out of the woods–

And happy ever after!

 

Cinderella: I wish…

 

That “I wish” was my most memorable moment in theatre. There are a lot of reasons for that, all of which are equal in their importance. First, the entire production was stunning. Second, the idea that the action of facing one’s giants is where true revelation and growth occur was not only meaningful to me; it was a reflection of my life at the time. The play helped me to see where I was in my own journey as I considered the beginnings, middles and ends of the characters’ journeys on stage. Third, when Cinderella sings “I wish” it is a call to hope and further journeys in life. It is a reminder that even if we exit the woods ragged and less innocent than we were when we went in, there is always hope; always a rejuvenation to fight another day. When you lose one wish, there is always another waiting to be discovered. When Jennie—my sister— sang that line I remembered, all in one instant, her entire journey from my point of view. All of the woods through which she had to traipse to be standing down center on one of the most famous stages in the United States with one of the most talented companies I had to that point witnessed, all standing behind her.

 

You see, nothing is ever just one thing. Even the plot of a play writes itself onto the minds of the audience members’ so uniquely that the story itself twists and bends a thousand different ways as we all sit side by side hearing the same words. The same words are imbued with completely unique images, emotions, memories and questions. And so it is in life.

 

I have been thinking of my experience with Into the Woods lately because I have also been listening to another musical that I think is similar in some ways: The Greatest Showman. The connection, for me, is in the song “Greatest Show.” Where Into the Woods uses the woods as a metaphor for “the journey,” The Greatest Showman uses the circus. The circus becomes that place to which we all travel for one reason or another (whether it be to escape or to be amazed by life) and we end up facing reality instead. To put it another way, the cast of The Greatest Showman could just as easily sing the words to the finale of Into the Woods rather than the words to “From Now On,” which is their final song. Imagine Hugh Jackman and company singing:

 

Into the woods–you have to grope,

But that’s the way you learn to cope.

Into the woods to find there’s hope

Of getting through the journey.

 

Instead, he sings:

 

I drank champagne with kings and queens

The politicians praised my name

But those are someone else’s dreams

The pitfalls of the man I became

For years and years

I chased their cheers

The crazy speed of always needing more

But when I stop

And see you there

I remember who all this was for.

 

In conclusion, I really love both these musicals because they both acknowledge that life is a journey fraught with both shadow and light. It is messy and we are clumsy, and it is hard and we are fallible, and it is beautiful and we are sometimes beautiful too, and it is logical and we are emotional beings, and it is emotional and we are logical beings . . .

 

The woods change us. The circus changes us. Life changes us. As someone who has often feared change, I find that lately change doesn’t seem so bad. Instead, it seems more like an adventure. I am grateful for that.

 

So into the woods you go again,

You have to every now and then.

Into the woods, no telling when,

Be ready for the journey.

 

copyright: Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo Credit: Denizens of the town head into the woods (Rachael Warren, Miles Fletcher, Javier Muñoz, Robin Goodrin Nordli, Jennie Greenberry). Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Alive and Waking

I sleep well

With fire pulled tightly

Over my body,

Under my chin

Thin flames lick the sides

Of a landscape

Rife with alive.

 

Alive and waking

After dreams

Seemed real—

Innately revealed

The pull and

Push of

My will.

 

Will the morning sky

Agree to the lie

That misfit memory

Cordoned to

The side of my waist

Or will it let me

Swim?

 

Swim in the water

Of imagination stirring

An element much safer

Than that which

Wreaks with smoke

Poked—but then soothed—

By waves crashing over.

 

Over the horizon

A line where earth meets sky

That earth

Where grounded clay

Accepts my fingers

Grabbing through and sinking.

 

Sinking hands

But head in the air

Where birds and insects

Catch the wind

Spiral upward

Then rescind—

Up but not away

Like dreams huddling under fire.

 

Copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo Credit: Claudia Pomowski’s piece, “Cry Of Oblivion.”   You can see more of her work on her website: C. Pom’s Art Wesbite .

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