I’m attending a Halloween party tonight and bringing my signature party dish, Jag. I love bringing this to parties because I can be pretty sure no one else will be making it. I cringe when I show up with something that someone else brought…it always makes me feel bad for the other person, like I ruined their contribution. I don’t like carrying that kind of guilt around all night. One time, I brought a Mexican dip to a party and sneaked it back into the car, because I didn’t want the owners of the two other Mexican dips to feel bad when they see no one eating it. With this dish, I know I’ll never hear, “Oh, you can just put it on the table next to the other Jags”. More often than not, I have to explain to the guests just exactly what Jag is. I live on Cape Cod, home of clam chowder and lobster rolls. Jag is a Cape Verde beans and rice dish, though often thought of as Portuguese, as it’s full of delicious linguica. Everyone’s recipe is a bit different, but it really doesn’t matter, because on Cape Cod, in my circle of friends, you can be pretty sure no place I’m going to has even heard of it. Mine is full of bacon, linguica, butter…(do NOT tell my cardiologist I eat this stuff!) I’m not the type to brag…unless it’s about my Jag. (Damn, the poetry just kinda flowed right there).I’m sorry, but my Jag is the bomb! My friends at this party are expecting it. I can’t show up with paltry cheese and crackers anymore. That’s so beneath me. People are depending on me! Tonight, as I walk in, the crowd will part to create a path for us. “It’s here” they’ll whisper. I’ll cradle the pot in my arms, smiling… holding it out towards the food table like Rashiki holding up baby Simba in the Lion King. “Behold…the Jag!” Yes, that’s right…my Jag is as good as a royal newborn son.
I wrote about my Jag once, in my journal. I know I’ve mentioned in my other posts about going to therapy. My therapist got me started on writing in a journal as a way to process things when I wasn’t in her office. Most who know me know how fortunate I am to have found the perfect match in a therapist. Let’s be real here… she is the best therapist on Cape Cod. I know, I haven’t actually been to any other therapists on Cape Cod… or anywhere, but it’s pretty obvious. Her name is Susan and she is a compassionate, badass, confident, empowering LISCW. She’s the kind of woman who’s not afraid to tell you when you’re off track, but also the first to validate you when it’s right. She has a way of planting seeds in my insecurities that grow into confidence. It’s really hard for me to give an accurate description of her, other than to say that I am 100% sure I would have ended up stuck in that dark, uncomfortable, cold cocoon for the rest of my life if I hadn’t met her. I wouldn’t have even known I was in a cocoon. I just would have died in there, never knowing I could have fought my way out. She’s given me the tools I needed to chip away at my shell and progress in my transformation to the butterfly. I always kind of feel bad for people when I hear them say they are going to therapy. I think, “gee, it’s too bad they are going to such a mediocre therapist”, which is funny, because I have no idea who they are even seeing. All I know is it’s not Susan, so they must at least be a little sucky. Even when they talk about how much their therapist has helped them, I think “Aw, poor thing. It’s too bad that you think this is good help. Imagine how much better you would be if you went to Susan”. If Susan ever retires, I’m screwed.
Earlier this year, as I started to peel off the layers of trauma, I started to have a spiritual awakening. It’s really a whole other story for another time. Though one interesting part of it was the synchronicity I suddenly became keenly aware of. It felt as if the Universe was trying to show me that I was on the right path. Coincidences and signs everywhere I turned. Some major, some small, but they happened all the time. Even Susan noticed it. Guess what her signature party dish is? Yep….Jag!
The awakening came at a time when I was doubting so much in my life….doubting myself, mostly, but also the entire process of my therapeutic journey. When you start peeling off those layers you’ve been carrying around all these years, it can get pretty ugly. You begin to wonder if you are doing the right thing. “Hmmm…I’m paying Susan one hundred dollars an hour to make me feel like I’m dying inside?” It seems like the process is taking forever and you begin to think that this might be as good as it gets.
It was an emotionally charged day when I had finally mustered up the courage to tell a friend for the first time about my childhood sexual abuse. I had only told Susan and my husband, and never imagined telling another soul. I honestly couldn’t even believe that I had told them about it. I thought I was taking that shit to the grave. You don’t just go around sharing your shame with people, you know? That’s the whole reason I kept it inside me for 30 years….if anyone ever found out, they would know how dirty and disgusting I was, and realize I was a fraud. As I pulled up to her driveway, overflowing with anxiety and considering turning around and going home, a family of four deer walked out of her back yard, crossing my path on the street. NOT a regular occurrence around here! I’d never seen anything like it. I couldn’t stop thinking about those deer, and how they appeared as I was about to share the most shameful secret of my childhood. Later that day, I looked up the meaning of a deer visit. It symbolizes “the innocence of the inner child”. Whoa. I told my husband, in disbelief. He was not impressed. How could he not see the connection between the innocence of the inner child and me telling the story of losing my childhood innocence? Come ON!! That man just does not get anything about me. Those next few weeks were dark for me. There were way too many puzzle pieces swirling around in my brain. I was confused and depressed, for sure. I had been working hard on figuring out how to forgive 13 year old Jami (I was 13 when the sexual abuse started) and I just couldn’t find a way to do it. I thought 13 year old Jami was shameful, dirty and disgusting. I just couldn’t shake it. I was discouraged and felt like giving up on all this therapy. It wasn’t working. I was more miserable than when I started. I remember lying on the couch one day, staring at the TV. My husband and youngest son came home. I could hear my husband say something to my son about “tell Mom what happened this morning”. I pulled myself up to a sitting position for the first time in hours. I knew I was just going through the motions for my family, but it was the best I could do. I looked over at my son, who was just 3 days shy of his 13th birthday. His face lit up as he started to share with me…“Mom, I was getting ready for school this morning and I looked out the window in the back yard and there was a deer looking at me!” I stared at him. It was like I had cleaned the dirt of my glasses and could see clear, for the first time in weeks… no, months. As I stared at him, it happened. I understood the significance of what was going on. God, it was right there, in plain sight, this whole time! It just took the coincidence of the deer to get me to notice. My son was turning 13. My sweet, innocent son. The son who still gives me tender kisses goodnight. The son who plays video games and hasn’t even gotten his braces yet. The son who feels excitement about a deer being in our yard. My inner voice spoke loudly, “He’s 13, just like you were. If that happened to him, would you forgive him?” I got up and went into my room so he wouldn’t see me crying. He’s only 13. If someone molested him, he wouldn’t be dirty. He wouldn’t be guilty. It wouldn’t be his fault. I would not think he was disgusting, shameful or unworthy. 13 year old Eric is pure. So why do I feel those things about 13 year old Jami? And just like that, the dark cloud lifted.
I just might wear this costume all year long.