Blog

I feel the need to preface the pieces on this page. While some of the posts here will be blog-length and quality, others will be a two paragraph blip on waiting for the school bus in the morning or a few lines about forgetting what I've walked into a room to do. Fiction and fact mingle in my words and can't be untangled save exceptional effort on my part which I'm yet unwilling to provide. Any resemblance to real places or persons is coincidence, of course. This is simply a place for my writing, without further caveat, and I hope you appreciate what you read here!

Routine Chaos

by Jordanne Leigh Weissert, May 2021


My childhood bedroom had a broken door-frame. The wood was damaged in such a way that the door would not stay shut on its own. I should clarify that it was my fault the frame was damaged; an act of youthful rebellion turned to accidental destruction of property, leaving my parents to ponder how best to go about fixing the structure while still teaching me a well-deserved lesson.

It’s important to note that during my childhood, my father was what you might call a “neat freak”. He wanted everything to have its place, and to be put there before the lights went out. This was a trait he wanted to pass on to his children. Unfortunately for him, my mom’s messy genes were evidently dominant.

It would be another ten years before I was diagnosed with ADHD, but any psychiatrist worth their salt could have figured it out by just looking at my raven’s nest of a bedroom. Clothing rarely in drawers or on hangers, blankets and pillows piled high on the bed, belongings scattered about in random boxes, half-read books piled on my bedside table; it was my personalized brand of chaos. It was also how my parents decided on their two-birds, one-stone solution to the broken door-frame conundrum.

If I could keep my room clean for 30 consecutive days, they would fix the broken door-frame. I felt this (reasonable) offer was cruel and unusual punishment, but agreed to try. I spent the next two days deep-cleaning. When I was done—clothing put away, bed made—I felt a strange sense of pride. Maybe I can make it for thirty days, I thought.

The task quickly proved too difficult. The mess would ease its way back, resetting my countdown clock to 30 days. Each time this happened, I became less and less inclined to care about the broken door. “The secret,” my mom would tell me when I vented my frustration, “is in the routine. Every night, before you get ready for bed, tidy up your room so that it will be nice and clean when you wake up. Put away your laundry, load your dirty dishes in the dishwasher, organize your desk, even try sweeping--” we both knew that last bit was a long-shot. “It’s important to take care of the things we care about,” she would add.

All of her advice about routine was sound, but she neglected to recognize the fatal flaw in her plan; I didn’t care about the door frame any more. I knew that if I really wanted to have a friend sleep over, or if a family member was coming to visit, I could just sacrifice a day to clean and shove a full laundry basket up against the door. It wasn’t quite waving a wand to make the mess disappear, but it was a relatively quick fix to what I felt was an irrelevant issue. After all, what did a messy room matter to a girl who spent most of her time reading her way into other worlds?

Not every sticky situation has a quick fix. Take, for example, the day I woke up with my face covered in strange, painful red bumps. Despite my complete and utter lack of skincare routine (unless you count scrubbing my face with body wash in the shower, and you really shouldn’t count that), my skin had never broken out before. Unfortunately, unlike the protagonists in the books scattered around my bed, there was no deus ex machina to save me from myself.

My mom’s advice then was essentially the same then as it had been all those years before; I needed a routine, to train myself to take care of the things I cared about, and—in true teen-age fashion—I cared about my physical appearance. I started washing my face with a cleanser in the morning, followed by toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen. I trained myself to remove my makeup every evening, and to apply a night cream before going to bed. With time, my skin recovered, but my implementation of routine didn’t stop there.

My senior year gym class contained a unit on yoga, and I was instantly hooked. I downloaded an app on my phone that would allow me to follow a routine at home, and I practiced for at least twenty minutes a day. It took time, but I started to feel stronger and more present. Yoga led naturally into meditation to start my days. Journaling soon followed, and before I knew it my life consisted of a series of routines. It seemed my mom’s advice had taken root in the rocky, infertile soil of the teenage mind. While it took its sweet time to bloom, it did indeed flower into a beautiful and healthy way of living.

Routines are generally separated into two categories: Primary and Secondary. Primary routines are usually learned in early childhood: when to eat, when to sleep, when to brush your teeth—you get the idea. Secondary relates more to who you are on a personal level, like your socialization, exercise habits, and goals (or the cleanliness of a room, skincare, and journaling). This past year, we have gone through fundamental life changes that have ravaged our secondary routines. Even our primary routines, whatever they looked like before, have either gone by the wayside or fallen into such dysfunction that calling them routines feels facetious. Case in point: I have 2020 calendars that go blank from April on, and I’m pretty sure I ate dinner at one in the morning on more than one occasion during the pandemic. As we start to glimpse light at the end of this tunnel, perhaps it’s also time to find routines that work for us again.

It’s normal to feel stressed when we slip out of routine. If you’re having trouble finding a foothold, if you’re unsure of where to start, focus on making sure your primary routines are in order. Make a sleep schedule and stick to it. Set reminders to eat at specific times in the day. Start a teeth-brushing tally on your mirror with a dry-erase marker. If you’re struggling with your secondary goals, just remember; I slept in my childhood bedroom for another six years, and that door frame was still broken on the day I left. You need to find something you care about to jump-start the process. For me, it was skincare. For you, maybe it’s exercising, journaling, scheduling face-times with friends, or applying makeup in the morning—whatever it is that you care about, incorporate a routine. As time goes on, as the world settles into a new normal, you’ll be ready to face each day. You know how it’s going to start: wake up, brush teeth, wash face, conquer whatever life throws at you. Routine doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, when you care about what you’re doing, routine can be a beautiful thing.



References:


  1. Hou WK, Lai FTT, Hougen C, Hall BJ, Hobfoll SE. Measuring everyday processes and mechanisms of stress resilience: Development and initial validation of the Sustainability of Living Inventory (SOLI). Psychol Assess. 2019 Jun;31(6):715-729. doi: 10.1037/pas0000692. Epub 2019 Jan 10. PMID: 30628819.

  2. Galea S, Merchant RM, Lurie N. The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 and Physical Distancing: The Need for Prevention and Early Intervention. JAMA Intern Med. 2020 Jun 1;180(6):817-818. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1562. PMID: 32275292.

World Health Organization. Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Available: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf.



The Healthy Alternative to Religious Eternity

by Jordanne Leigh, November 18, 2020

The following is an edited except from a journal entry written on July 24th, 2017. When I'm lacking inspiration, I go through my old writings to see if I had any kernels of profound thought that might be expanded into a full post. When I stumbled on this passage, I felt that, with very little editing, it could convey a message to which I wholeheartedly still cling in present-day.

*****

Is it wrong to think some people just have too much money? As I look around this Starbucks, it takes a substantial amount of effort to maintain any sort of distant respect for strangers; people on their latest generation MacBook Pros highlighting verses in their leather bound Zondervan bibles, reading self help books while drinking frappuccinos, more bibles… I think it’s the bibles that bother me. While I understand where I’m coming from, I also know I can’t judge people for believing what they believe. I spent my entire childhood believing in Jesus as my personal savior; it wasn’t until I was 19 that I finally had the courage to abandon the institution that held my life captive to a so-called sinful soul.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself walking through the lower levels of the historical museum housed by the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. As I passed by preserved pieces of the past, I found myself contemplating the reason for religion. Life, in the grand scheme of time, has been miserable for humans up until very recently. Here’s my hypothesis: If people are happy enough in their daily lives, if more than their basic needs are met, their journey towards self-actualization includes reconciling that humanity doesn’t need the promise of another life to live fully. It’s an understanding of god as a human construct to preserve the sanity of peoples who felt that this life was not worth living, that a second/perfect life was just around the corner. People had to believe in a god because life was too bleak to accept a permanent end. Now that life is so far removed from a place where we, as a species, need a god to exist, we can move towards the idea that we only have one life (and don’t need the promise of another to keep us going). Sure, a worldview without a god does present some existential challenges: the ever present sub-conscious understanding that nothing is permanent; we’re all headed for an infinite nothing; meaning only exists where we apply it; etc..

It’s still quite nice to know that it’s not only okay but necessary to live this life as we see fit, hoping to create a better world for those we leave behind. This is the only healthy concept of eternity I've been able to craft, and it's a hell of a lot more rewarding than an eternal monotony of small groups and worship services.


The Scientific Method

by Jordanne Leigh, November 8, 2020

I was never a fan of waking up early. To be up before the sun rose was to get ready for a day at public school. No matter how many years separate me from that grueling pre-dawn wait for the bus, I can still feel a dull ache in my shoulders from the weight of my books as I stand in the misty quiet street of memory.

This, among other reasons, is why I do not jump at my alarm. I hit the snooze button, allowing for nine more blissful minutes of rest. I think: If I snooze the first alarm, then I'm better prepared for the world when the second rings out. The scientific method dictates I test this hypothesis, and I've been doing so for years now. If I knew what to look for in the results, perhaps I could move on to the mature position of setting just one alarm. I am a slave to my own search for conclusion.

Jesus Was A Guy, So We Should Have Seen This Coming

by Jordanne Leigh, July 27, 2020

I learned a lot growing up in two megachurches” isn’t necessarily what you expect to hear from an evangelistic atheist. Nevertheless, it’s true! For one thing, I learned to be diligent note-taker. I would bring a journal and write out everything the pastor said. I’d slide the day’s program into the front pocket and revisit the message from time to time. I haven’t taken notes on a sermon in many years, but every once in a while I’ll pull those journals out to take a good look at the process that helped make me the person I am today.

As impactful as sermons were at the time, what really stuck with me were the more subtle messages sent from the institution itself. Reinforcement of the patriarchy, circular logic, “doubt” being taboo, praising ignorance, expectation of blind faith, etc.. Exposure to these religious “norms” created a distance between the world of faith and secular culture that I found hard to cross. I’m working in the abstract here, so let’s give you an example:

Take the concept & implementation of the small group. For those who don’t know, a “small group” is, well, a small group of people taken from a larger sample of the congregation. Generally utilized by youth and college-aged ministries, these groups were divided by gender and age. For instance, if there were 30 students in a congregation, we can assume 15 boys and 15 girls. Those two groups would then be divided into thirds by grade to (theoretically) create 6 groups of 5 children, and each of these small groups would be assigned a leader of the corresponding gender. These leaders were usually from the next age range up, so middle schoolers would most likely have a high school small group leader, high schoolers would have a college-aged leader, and college students would have some form of older adult guiding them. These groups would break off after the sermon to talk about what they’d just learned, go over how everyone’s week was, discuss any issues a student was having, and take prayer requests.

The concept is so familiar to me that it took nearly five years of recovery to realize the impact it had on my ability to make friends with people of a different gender (and my ability to recognize gender as a construct, but the plight of LGBTQ+ people in the church really deserves its own post). By splitting boys and girls, churches widened the gender gap like a spacer between teeth; with painful intention. The groups never mixed unless we were playing games, so we weren’t able to understand each other’s plights. Camaraderie and affection were really only encouraged within one’s own gender. I feel as though we were being primed to see one another as purely marriageable material, not suitable for friendships. Giving the other gender a chance to speak its mind and stand up for itself would have only increased our mutual understanding, and through mutual understanding we could have cultivated empathy. Unfortunately, it would have also diminished the efficacy of the religious patriarchy.

Don’t know what I mean? Let’s take a quick look at youth leadership. I want to own that my pastors were wonderful humans across the board. All kind, attentive, understanding, intelligent, funny people— and every last one of them male. Each of these nice men had a loving wife at his side. She might volunteer in the cafe, work with the toddlers, or even run a small group… but she was never in charge. These couples were our models for a godly relationship. We were told, “wives, submit to your husbands”, and so they did… and so it was that we learned men should be in the position of power, even with fully capable, creative, intelligent, strong woman at their sides. We were all god’s children, and all in his service, but men got to be middle management.

I don’t have an epic conclusion. I simply felt the need to express my frustration with the reality of gender separation and disparity in religious institutions. If you feel the same, or disagree and want to be seen & heard, feel free to comment down below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


A Cut to the Quick

by Jordanne Leigh, January 2021


The shop fronts on Ventura Boulevard glow red hot beyond my tinted lenses, a scene at odds with a gray overcast sky so rarely seen in The Valley. I run an un-manicured hand through my now shoulder-length hair as I follow the familiar stretch of sun-beaten sidewalk up into the hills. A fully loaded shiny black G-Wagon is parallel parked behind a rusted '03 Accord. My off brand converse, secured for twenty dollars at Walmart a few years back, carry me through the winding roads lined with million dollar homes. As I climb higher, the houses hide deeper in the hills, separated by lengths of craftsman fencing and manicured hedges twice my height. I am simultaneously out of place and almost home, nearly at my own gate some hundred feet down around the blind drive on my right. I am shrouded in lingering curiosity.


I run a dry hand through my now shoulder-length hair. Grabbing the locks at the nape of my neck, I close my eyes and breathe in the heavily scented air. What greets me is not my pipe dream of a happy partner, but a stone in distracted shock (I should note that to be distracted is the natural state of a chronic drug abuser). They are angry. Angry that I did not tell them how short I was going. Angry to be left out of the presumed mutual decision of my hair length. I... I apologize. I am profuse; tears well in my eyes as I take on this perceived slight. I put myself in their position:


Would I feel betrayed if they'd gotten their hair cut without consulting me?

...no, I wouldn't.

Can I understand why they did?

... no, I can't.


Yet I beg forgiveness. I need them to be happy and healthy. Who I am, and what I do, is not important when they is in the room. They are the only thing- entity, energy- that matters, because without them, my world will cease to exist.


What I don't know yet is that my world doesn't exist at all, and it will take every last ounce of energy to let go of this particular brand of chaos.


While I beg, I am contented by the small, friendly thought that I like my hair this length, even if they do not.