Smashing the Boulder

I’ve been battling an unnecessary existential crisis, one of the many free gifts bestowed upon humans like me who are authentically human.

What began as nuisance funks the size of small pebbles rapidly combined to create one giant, overwhelming boulder. 

Innumerable legs, each with a different origin, protrude from this particular boulder, and they have been kicking me nonstop from every direction while the boulder’s crushing weight has squashed my sense of purpose. My futile attempts to defend myself or fight back provoke a harder and faster pummeling, and I end up reduced to a steaming pile of doubt and defeat.

The debilitating boulder, however, has now rolled into sacred soul territory by triggering a case of the summertime blues. 

I’ve waited all year for these two glorious months, dammit, and today, I wallow no more.

The only way around it is through it. 

As I crawl forward on my elbows, the megalith’s tentacles slightly loosen their grip around my ankles.  

Inch by inch, I will escape the squidmonster of stone’s grasp, then smash it to pieces. 

I will rise and stand victorious within its ruins, and my light will shine brighter than ever.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Smashing the Boulder” was posted on jillocone.com on July 1, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Harbingers, Legacies, and Chapters

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I’m one of the first to arrive at my building, usually by 6:05 AM, because I write for at least 30 minutes in my classroom before I prepare for my school day. My writing mind is at its peak of fluency and creativity in the morning, and I’ve successfully used that time for its purpose on most days this year. Arriving so early provides me with a different vantage and experience than my fellow colleagues who roll into the parking lot later than me.

On Monday, I knew a yearly milestone I look forward to every year would happen this week, so I kept my sunglasses next to me on my ride into school instead of packing them away in my school bag.

With about five minutes left in my drive yesterday morning, it happened! I left the dark in my rearview mirror by sliding my sunglasses out of their protective case and onto the bridge of my nose! From this point forward, I’ll walk into school in the light.

It’s a simple turning point, but that harbinger delights me to no end. I can now breathe a bit easier knowing that summer dangles right in front of me.

But let’s back up a bit…

On the way from my house to my car yesterday morning, I listened to the sweetest singing coming from somewhere above me, a sound I haven’t heard since mid-September. I looked up to see a silhouette from high on my roof against the morning’s first light. 

The catbirds have returned, and their melodies are simply my favorites.

Spring is here, and it’s incredibly sweeter this year because it feels and looks more like how it is supposed to, like it did back before….. well, you know, the Thanos of our existence for the last two years.

I absolutely love spring after it’s done teasing us, as well as every single inch of summer. Having two events that usher in the spring actually occur on the same day was exceptional, especially since I haven’t been feeling all that great lately. Nothing to fret, just a nuisance lupus flare with associated fatigue and pain. I know it could be a hell of a lot worse, but it’s still frustrating to feel so depleted in the middle of the afternoon. I’m hopeful the flare is nearing its end and that things soon balance out for me.

On a positive note, this time of year also brings another celebration: the day when my students complete the yearbook. The legacy they build fills my heart with joy, especially when students from years past recognize the accomplishments of current students that I post in my social media because they remember the feeling of coming together to accomplish a common goal.

My students recently finished designing “The Chain” legacy board in our classroom, which includes photographs and staff yearbook spreads from years past along with a chain link for every student who has been a part of the program since the 2007-2008 school year. The chain drapes halfway around the classroom from the ceiling and is a visual symbol of that legacy. Each student is unique, each year is a different experience with a different book, but together, that chain is strengthened and lengthened by an experience like no other.

One of the chain’s names from the 2013 graduating class surprised me with a visit yesterday, and talking with him was medicine for my soul. Off the record, in my mind he just graduated despite being out of high school for almost 10 years already! Time is truly a thief and never fails to deceive me.

This young man’s story inspires and encourages me, as the foundation he built while within our school walls for four years served as stable blocks to build an extraordinary life of purpose while living each moment to its fullest. Another instance of the student inspiring the teacher, and I admire the hell out of him.

In fact, his incredible influence is like gasoline fueling my already fantastically flaming fire as I am actively revising my novel, which I’ve worked on every day since deciding to dust the manuscript off. In between work and home responsibilities, meeting deadlines for my magazine publisher, submitting smaller works for possible publication, and managing my health issues, I am taking my time by dissecting each word to improve every sentence while refining my voice and making the plot more engaging for readers. 

This go-around has already been rewarding and enlightening because I can finally distance myself from the circumstances surrounding the manuscript’s birth. It’s no longer a means to cope with grief, but rather, my undeniable purpose: to write the story I am meant to write with passion and with love. To quote a line from my original vision from the universe, once I write chapter one, everything will fall into place. For those who don’t know the back story, I titled my novel Chapter One-A Novel, and I know without the shadow of a doubt that everything will fall into place when I am finally finished crafting its narrative. The wave is here, and I’m riding it full-out to create the very best novel I can. 

I’ve got several other ideas in the hopper, but finishing my manuscript needs to happen before I can wholeheartedly devote myself to other pursuits.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, and Smashing Pumpkins, along with Sirius’ Lithium channel, provide the soundtrack to my life right now. And check out RHCP’s new album Unlimited Love if you haven’t already done so. It’s deliciously captivating, a lyrical masterpiece, and the return of John Frusciante’s signature guitar riffs brings us full-circle back to the band’s early iconic sound.

Sublime spring, you’ll never know how joyful I am to see you arrive in all your glory. I’ve waited so long for you, and my heart beats with fervent anticipation about what your chapter will bring and what celebrations await me.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Harbingers, Legacies, and Chapters” was posted on jillocone.com on April 30, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

A Hole for Everlong

Taylor Hawkins, 1972-2022

I cannot do better than that thousands of other tributes out there, for each is spot on.

But I cannot fill the hole that now exists in my heart and soul, a hole I never expected or can explain.

I never met you.

I never had the opportunity to see you on stage whaling on your kit with infectious energy or belting out your favorite Queen songs with passion and sheer joy.

And I never expected to feel this gutted and empty after we’ve lost you.

The value of a single life cannot be weighed, cannot be summed up in succinct numbers or data or percentages.

The value of a single life, however, can be felt in my heart and in my soul, through its presence and through its absence.

We’re all better off because your feet walked our earth at the same time as ours, but now, we’re all left with a hole inside us that will remain Everlong.

I don’t know what else to say, except this:

Thank you, Taylor.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“A Hole for Everlong” was posted on jillocone.com on March 27, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved.

Published in Jersey Shore Magazine’s Spring 2022 Issue

One of my favorite spring days is the one when I hold the new issue of Jersey Shore Magazine in my hands and page through its leaves to find my work. Working on my articles and editorial content for the Spring 2022 issues was quite possibly the most satisfying of my tenure thus far for the magazine. I profiled three fantastic subjects and loved getting to know each of them.

The Incomparable Remember Jones: What an honor, what a voice, and what a person! I envy his infectious energy and he inspires me to be true to myself as he is true to himself now more than ever. I assure you, if you are able to catch one of his shows, you won’t regret it. Click HERE for the article and HERE for Remember Jones’ website.

In The Flow: The Artistry of Jenny Santa Maria: A true privilege to profile Jenny and her unbelievable pysanky/batik talents. Who knew how symbolic her art and article would be with the current state of affairs in Ukraine. She’s incredibly talented across the board, a true renaissance woman, and the world is a better place because she walks upon it. Click HERE for the article and HERE for Jenny Santa Maria’s website.

Jersey Shore Arts Center: Housed in the original Neptune High School building in Ocean Grove, the Jersey Shore Arts Center always has something going on. Check out their website here to see what’s on their schedule. Click HERE for the article and HERE for the JSAC’s website.

I also wrote a personal essay titled Intrepid Spirit as the issue’s Homeport piece, which is the first time I’ve contributed such a piece. Intrepid Spirit chronicles my love of ships and the sea, and how the visit of the A.J. Meerwald tall ship to Point Pleasant Beach sparked my curiosity. Click HERE for the article and HERE for the A.J. Meerwald’s website.

My other work for the issue included compiling the Party Boat directory, the Calendar of Events, Farmer’s Market guide, and Theatre Guide.

You can check out the entire issue by clicking here or by visiting Jersey Shore Publications’ Website.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Published in Jersey Shore Magazine’s Spring 2022 Issue” was posted on jillocone.com on March 26, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Heavy

The pressure,

It cripples 

My shoulders.

The anguish,

It crushes

My heart.

The long dormant

Scars that are

Too deep to

Scratch

Fire and 

Itch something

Fierce.

.

I’m fourteen

Again, 

With the 

Formidable

Red dread 

In my head

Reawakened…

The Day After.

Summertime boycotts.

Shall

We

Play

A

Game.

Creed’s loss.

Drago’s victory.

Wolverines become 

Targets of

Helicopter ambushes 

While we

Devour the

Juiciest 

Red apples and

Pray for 

Happily ever

After and

Peace.

.

Same as it ever was.

.

But this time,

Though,

It’s heavier,

With iron-clad threads 

Of clamoring dissonance

And pandemic fatigue

And the injustice of justice

Interwoven with

Humanity’s

Frayed strings

And compassion’s

Colorless fibers.

.

But this time,

Though,

It’s for real. 

The bombs

And the tanks

Purposely target

The beings 

Whose only crime

Is an address

On a certain street

In a certain country. 

The missiles

Pierce the heavens

As the bullets

Pierce the skin

And the screams

Pierce the silence,

The lives of

The innocents

No consequence to

Him

Who values

Authority 

And 

Avarice

Above 

All and

Lives his

Happily ever

After no

Peace.

The Ukrainian/Galician/Balkan heritage in my lineage and in my soul called me to write “Heavy.” I stand with my ancestral brothers and sisters wherever their feet may touch the Earth but especially those in Ukraine.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Heavy” was posted on jillocone.com on February 26, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Day of Birth

The sun rises on the first day of my 51st orbit around the sun. I ponder the footsteps that led me to standing alongside the massive ocean in this moment, but my path in the sand behind me has disappeared. I pause here, joy-fully scarred and strong with her waves rushing over my feet, and bask in the light that shines from within me. It unifies with the sun’s rays and radiates in all directions a message too massive to fully comprehend.

Here I am, teeming with light and life, a magnificent creature of Water and Earth and Air and Fire, a child of the Universe. Blissful delight overwhelms me, and I allow the sea’s breeze to dry the tears in the corners of my eyes.

The tide recedes with each of her salt water molecules swelled full of gratitude for my beautifully flawed body, for my lungs and my heart, for my soul and my mind, and for my journey to this moment.

After the sun sets on the day, I lie my head on my pillow with a slight smile and close my eyes, content and full of hope.

The sea, her tide rises in rhythm with the sun on the next glorious morning, a morning when I awake once again reborn. In my morning prayer, I ask my body to continue sustaining me, my soul to continue sparking my light, my mind to continue enlightening me, and the universe to continue illuminating the path I’m meant to follow.

I inhale peace and purpose, exhale gratitude for another day of life, and embrace the possibilities of the unknown. I stretch my arms and my legs, then rise to my feet and take my first steps along today’s extraordinary adventure.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Day of Birth” was posted on jillocone.com on February 13, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

‘22-03 Fortnightly Focus: Receptive

2022 is truly a brand new year, and I have been very receptive to all the positive changes I’ve been experiencing since the calendar turned its page. I’ve returned to both yoga and meditation, and I am making a regular practice of writing and connecting with my soul. I’m learning more about reiki and am developing a 30-minute “Semester Reset” Mindful Session for my fellow educators. By being receptive to change, especially change in the right direction, my attitude and mindset have vastly improved. Another example is being receptive to things I know I cannot change, case in point is yesterday’s blizzard. I am most definitely not a winter person, but instead of complaining about the snow, I was receptive to accepting the forecast and enjoyed a rather peaceful and cozy day writing and watching Marvel and Star Wars movies. I couldn’t change the fact we got slammed with drifts higher than two feet in some spots, so why waste my energy barking about it? I made do by being receptive, and today, we move on.

I invite you to join me in embracing the word “receptive” over the next two weeks. The word “receptive” has many definitions, but for the purpose of our focus, I suggest using the definitions below, courtesy of Merriam Webster:

receptive: adjective. Willing to consider or accept new ideas

Being receptive to what is has allowed me to become excited about what can be. I’m no longer at war with my past. I have more energy at the end of the day, and while I still battle the occasional Lupus issue such as one hell of a butterfly rash across my face yesterday, overall I feel less fatigued. My soul tells me the positive improvements in my health are a result of being receptive to changing up my routines and going with the flow. 

The ocean is the perfect metaphor for going with the flow. She doesn’t care about the “to-do” list of others, such as the woman who booked a surf lesson or a wedding on her sands. She rages when she feels like raging, and calms when it’s the right time for her to be calm. She’s receptive to the influences of the moon, to weather systems, and to her changing tides, but to hell with us humans. She can cradle us or destroy us, coddle us or drown us, and we’re the ones that need to be receptive to her. 

I invite you to embrace the word “receptive” over the next two weeks and allow it to guide you. Consider new ideas and accept what comes your way. 

As always, if the time is not right for you to be receptive, it’s okay. No shame and no beating yourself up for having a bad day or for not making progress towards your goals, whatever those may be. All vibes matter in this space, as the human experience is made up of ALL vibes, not just good vibes. Embrace your reality and feel what you feel without guilt.

Wise Words About RECEPTIVE 

“You always have something to learn from people who have been through more than you. Be open and receptive to what they know.” – Zac Efron

“You can keep the body as well-oiled and receptive as possible, but whether you’re actually going to be able to go for the long haul is really not your own choice.” – Leonard Cohen

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m so glad you’re here.

With love, light, and gratitude,

Jill

‘22-03 Fortnightly Focus: Receptive” was posted on jillocone.com on January 30, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

The Value of a Soul

One of my students recently asked me if I would sell my soul for $50 million. 

I emphatically replied, “No, I most definitely would not.” 

They gasped wide-eyed, “But it’s FIFTY million dollars! You could buy anything you wanted!”

“My soul is worth far more to me than money,” I answered. “It’s not for sale at any price.”

“I’d sell mine! I need the money!”

“Do you know what kind of life you’d have afterwards?” I questioned.

“A rich one.”

“But another entity or person would own you and dictate your every move. You wouldn’t be YOU anymore, you’d be the pawn of someone or something else and your life as you know it would cease to exist.”

“That’s ok by me! My soul, it’s nothing, but money, money is everything!”

Our exchange left me disheartened, and I am struggling to find a way to show this student the immense value of their soul before our time together ends in a few short weeks. I’m even more disillusioned at realizing this is certainly not the only student in my classroom who believes his or her soul has no value.

As both a teacher and a lightworker, it is tremendously difficult to relate to such a mindset when my soul suggests I help when I can and to build someone up instead of tearing them down. I cannot grasp our culture’s ever-growing glorification of jackassery and shaming over compassion and empathy, nor the empty value placed upon “likes,” “followers,” and “influencers” who are driven by the almighty dollar instead of altruism.  

But this is what our world has become and the world our young people are growing up in.

What is another way my soul can model kindness and generosity when the mantra I repeatedly hear is, “What’s in it for me?”

How can I empower others, especially young people, in a society where perseverance or trying one’s best in the classroom are seen as detriments and the benefits from personal accountability and learning from failure are no longer revered? 

I’m sharing this with you today because I am confident that by putting it out there, I will attract a way to help my students be freed from the shackles of societal expectations and ego, and instead, spark their light so they can appreciate even a sliver of both their enormous potential and the abundant value of their souls.

I’m not giving up on any of them, for each has a uniquely vital and valuable light to shine in our world.

Please note that I intentionally used the pronouns “they” and “their” for confidentiality reasons. Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

The Value of a Soul” was posted on jillocone.com on January 23, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

‘22-02 Fortnightly Focus: Inquisitive

I’ve been extraordinarily inquisitive lately, so much so I’d probably be able to retire if I had a quarter for everything I’ve looked up using searches and the wealth of online resources provided by my local library. I bet I have amassed a year’s worth of knowledge and wisdom in these first sixteen days of 2022. The word “inquisitive” has many definitions, but for the purposes of this two-week focus, I suggest using the definitions below, courtesy of Merriam Webster:

inquisitive: adjective. tending to ask questions; having a desire to know or learn more; curious or inquiring.

I’ve always been an inquisitive creature. For instance, every time our town’s emergency siren would sound to summon either the first aid or fire department starting when I was very young, I’d be concerned and want to know more. My empathy and curiosity combined to spark such questions as, “I wonder what happened. Who do you think is hurt? I hope everyone is okay.” I clearly remember such instances from very early in my life. Anyone reading this who grew up with me in my hometown may remember a certain siren that would blare three times every day at noon: long, short, long. I can still hear it in my mind. That siren was a time indicator, not an emergency indicator, and I was relieved when it was just those three blasts because nobody was in danger. Anyway, ever since I can remember, I’ve always desired to know more, then write about what I’ve learned and the connections I experience along my journey. My curiosity is one aspect I most appreciate about myself; instead of abandoning my childlike wonder as I matured, I nurtured it and allowed it to shine. I still do, and I always will.

At first glance, it might seem impossible that the ocean can be inquisitive, but if I look closer, I see the ocean is, like me, a living creature. She is alive with life. Each of her waves she reaches and spreads across the sandy land is an extension of her curiosity, and her waves are full of new knowledge when they retract back into her mass. She then imparts her learned wisdom upon us through our connection with her. We are both inquisitive, forever curious and always learning.

I invite you to embrace the word “inquisitive” over the next two weeks and allow it to guide you. Take some quiet time to connect with and ponder the questions lurking in your mind and in your soul, then vow to seek answers. Cultivate your curiosity and learn something, no matter how small it may be.

As always, if the time is not right for you to be inquisitive, it’s okay. No shame and no beating yourself up for having a bad day or for not making progress towards your goals, whatever those may be. All vibes matter in this space, as the human experience comprises ALL vibes, not just good vibes. Embrace your reality and feel what you feel without guilt.

Wise Words About INQUISITIVE

“When you are inquisitive, Jane, you always make me smile. You open your eyes like an eager bird, and make every now and then a restless movement, as if answers in speech did not flow fast enough for you, and you wanted to read the tablet of one’s heart.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“Be inquisitive. Open your eyes, open your minds to things you don’t necessarily know even exist. I think that’s an important part of learning and growing. The more [you]’re willing to ask, the more [you]’re going to get out of it.”

― Jay Rinaldi

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

‘22-02 Fortnightly Focus: Inquisitive” was posted on jillocone.com on January 16, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

‘22-01 Fortnightly Focus: Initiative

Today I’m sharing a sneak peek into a new “initiative” that my soul has ignited. There’s much more to come, believe me, but for now, allow my soul to invite you to embrace the word “initiative” over the next two weeks and let it guide you. The word “initiative” has many definitions, but for this focus, I suggest using either of these definitions, courtesy of Merriam Webster:

initiative: noun. the power or opportunity to do something before others do; the energy and desire that is needed to do something

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/initiative

I’m looking at 2022 with intense initiative: I’m calling upon my soul’s energy and desire to shine my light, and the opportunity to do something for others while shining said light from within. In fact, this post is a living embodiment of that initiative.

The ocean’s initiative is her power and energy, which she uses to fulfill her intricate role: to rise and fall, to destroy and cleanse, to excite and calm, to cycle through highs and lows while teaching us all how to tread its waters. The ocean’s initiative is innate and natural. Her energy propels her massive presence yet her desire to allow its salt water to purify and teach us keeps her in check. Her waves are full of wisdom which she imparts upon us through even her lightest caress of our toes along her break line. 

For this challenge, look inward and contemplate an opportunity to do something meaningful or helpful for yourself or for others. What energy do you need to make it happen? If you don’t know the answer to either/both questions, take some quiet time over the next two weeks to connect with your soul and ask what it most desires. Perhaps it’s something as small as lowering the number of carbs you eat or increasing the number of steps you walk each day. Perhaps it’s something larger, an unfulfilled dream or wish that has been subtly tugging at your heartstring for a day, or a month, or a year, or a lifetime. Take the initiative to make progress, no matter how small the steps may be.

And if you cannot accomplish this task, it’s okay. No shame and no beating yourself up for having a bad day or for not taking those baby steps. All vibes matter in this space, as the human experience is made up of ALL vibes, not just good vibes. Embrace your reality and feel what you feel without guilt.

Wise Words About INITIATIVE: “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” ― Barack Obama

I’m looking forward to connecting with you a lot more this year. I hope you have a wonderful first week of 2022! Shine on!

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“‘22-01 This Week’s Focus: Initiative” was posted on jillocone.com on January 3, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.