Gelatinous Brain Tissue (aka The Jacket)

September 27, 2022

I remember when I first bought this jacket, more than 11 years ago. It may have been 11 years ago exactly.

If you know me IRL, you’ve seen this jacket. It’s olive green. Faux-fur interior. Comes down just below my fanny and looks like it could me made by LL Bean, Free People, and REI all at once. Spoiler alert: it’s Forever 21.

I remember the fall day in San Diego like it was yesterday. I was doing then what I’m doing now: trying to make it through difficult emotions, changing life circumstances, and an evolving spirit by doing the most California-valley girl-basic bitch thing I can think of: shopping. More specifically, shopping at Forever 21.

Fall in San Diego is something to behold. It cools off to about 70 degrees. It is sunny, but the seasonal changes of shifting sunlight and a soft breeze tell you, “It’s fall.” The increased amount of flannel and shackets being sold by major retailers is another sign. When the weather is mostly the same year-round, we must look to the fashion gods to tell us where in the calendar year we find ourselves.

I couldn’t tell you if I was working that day or just going to school. It’s remarkable I had any money at all- working part time at the San Diego Padres only afforded me so much spending money. There was once a time, about a year post-jacket-purchase, where I ran out of money at the nail salon. Wearing the same nail color then as I am now, my debit card was declined. I knew I shouldn’t have bought Marlboro Golds that morning. Anyway, back to the jacket.

I parked at Fashion Valley mall- a real treat compared to the then-tawdry Mission Valley (or “Mish Val” as we so affectionately called it). This Forever 21 was a BEAST- two stories, easily 7,000 square feet. I was more worried then as I am now about my weight, body image, and desirability as a partner, although those worries still resurface on occasion. It’s a bit funny. No matter how many yoga classes you take, how much you meditate, or how long you’ve been sober, some of the same concerns and mental patterns still sit rooted deeply in the grooves of your gelatinous brain tissue. Maybe if I do several sounds of ayahuasca or some other psychedelic I can finally rid myself of these voices. But, over the years they’ve gotten smaller, quiet, and at this point they are the just psychological weeds that return to me every so often. It’s up to me to prune them, to pull out their roots from the depths of my subconscious, and clear space for more fertile plants (or thoughts) to grow. I do this all while wearing this jacket.

Part of me wonders if the jacket itself is like a dream-catcher. A relic of the past that carries with it the energies of the time. Perhaps I’m assigning too much meaning to this piece of cheaply produced, yet long-lasting manufacturing. But, this jacket has become my cloak, my cape, my protection on days where I may not be feeling my “hot girl summer” energy. It is trustworthy. Dependable. It fits me well, despite any weight fluctuation I’ve yet endured. It’s stood by me through heartbreaks and insecurity and I’ve even taken her for a spin (or several) when I’ve felt most confident. This jacket has been a constant for me in a state of change. There are so few constants- it makes sense why we hold on to them so tightly. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I once had a therapist tell me that life was like “learning to exist in a perpetual state of free-fall.” Comforting. I understand his point, though, particularly as it applies to addictive tendencies. We cling, we attach, we assign meaning and purpose to items as insignificant as jackets from Forever 21 because to face reality can be deeply detrimental to our psyches. After all, how can I sit around and contemplate the actual reality of my aging body, a suffering planet, and the unavoidable annihilation of my self and still muster the energy to brush my hair? If we all were to pay attention, all the time, to everything, we would not advance. We would not be able to. There is a very real reason our brains choose to selectively ignore certain realities. Denial is not only an effective coping strategy for hard times but an evolutionary imperative. We must deny death, we must deny vulnerability, we must deny the very nature of our selves in order to keep the image of our “self” cohesively formed. Without it, without this “self” that I call “me,” or this jacket that I call “vintage,” who am I? The witness? The observer? The all-knowing God and universal creator that many major religions say lives inside me and inside all living beings? Even plants are sentient. Mushrooms are aliens. Everything exists all at once: conflicting truths. Nothing is mutually exclusive.

With this knowing, I relax. Nothing is in my control. I begin to witness my attachment to my Forever 21 jacket the same way I’d witness a child with its blanket. For we are all children in the eyes of the universe. We all carry with us all the evolutionary knowledge from our ancestors while facing this reality with a fresh set of eyes, a fresh heart, and a deafening (albeit, dormant) understanding that we are always at the mercy of forces more powerful than us. How quickly we realize that is up to us. How quickly we act upon that may be the key to our survival.

Until then, I’m going to wear this olive-green jacket. My army fatigues for the battle of life.

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