Former therapist. Author of the Heart of Madison series & My Words are Whiskey www.crystaljacksonwriter.com https://subscribe.to/crystaljackson

What Thanksgiving means to me in 2020

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Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Usually, I make November an entire month of gratitude. I find something to appreciate daily and work in random acts of kindness. But lately, I find myself wanting to commit random acts of insanity, like slapping the taste out of the mouths of anyone still not wearing a mask despite all science has taught us. Instead of focusing on the good in people, my eyes are drawn to everyone who won’t comply so that we can end the nightmare that is Covid.

It is incredibly disempowering to realize that Covid can only be controlled with a collaborative effort that isn’t going to happen with half the country touting the need for precautions and the other doing whatever the hell they want. Try reaching for gratitude while carrying that chip on your shoulder. …


Practical ways to help children cope with challenges

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Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash

Take a look at any family, and it’s easy to spot inherited traits. I don’t just mean hair color or facial features or body type. It’s easy to see generational patterns, particularly from a distance. Even inside families, it’s not hard to see our inherited quick tempers or struggles with anxiety. We all struggle with something. We don’t all get help for it.

When I was a child, I went home from school regularly for stomach aches. This went on for years. During a checkup in college, the doctor suggested that maybe my stomach problem was actually a stress problem. …


When the parenting “help” makes parenting infinitely harder.

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Photo by Zachary Kadolph on Unsplash

I am sick to death of being told how strong I am, as if I don’t already know. Only I know the weight I’m carrying right now, the enormity of the struggle. My strength isn’t in question. My endurance might be.

This year brought Covid-19 restrictions into my life right as I was trying to source help for my family. …


Fiction Friday

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Photo by Pasha Chusovitin on Unsplash

“Alexa, get drinks for us.”

“You guys have got to get some new material,” Alexa said drolly as her friends peeled with laughter across the patio table. She stretched her arms above her head with a grin and let out a sigh. “This is the life!”

A nearby table of obvious frat boys watched the slow stretch and the way Alexa’s sheer dress molded to her curves so tightly they could see the outline of the bikini beneath it. …


Sometimes, being alone is the best way to love ourselves.

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Photo by Tyler Kaslik on Unsplash

Grief. I was supposed to feel grief. I held open the door of the clerk’s office with my hip while maneuvering a double stroller through the narrow opening and thought about the fact that filing for divorce was supposed to leave me feeling the heavy sense of loss. I tried to taste it, but I couldn’t I could only taste relief.

It was almost over. The hardest decision had been made. I was leaving the loneliest relationship of my life. I could breathe again.

I was the one who got away.

Years later, I walked through my house collecting things the last he had left behind, removing his presence from my house. I was angry and sad and worried about how I would get through the coming months with my savings emptied and my debt run high, but underneath it all was a sense of freedom. …


Why you shouldn’t feel guilty for discarding toxic connections

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Photo by Mariano Nocetti on Unsplash

Funerals in my family have a particular feel. It’s not just the dark clothes and the hushed voices. It’s rooms filled with donuts in the morning, casseroles in the afternoon. It’s children darting between legs and finding hidden corners to share secrets while the adults relive memories, exchange hugs, and keep vigil until the bitter end. Humor darts in and out of conversation as easily as grief, and nearly everyone murmurs that we should see more of each other, before it’s too late.

Only I don’t leave funerals thinking that I should make more time for family. I leave funerals thinking that life is too short to live a single moment of it from a sense of obligation. But toxic people are fond of extolling the virtues of familial duty. To them, it makes no difference if the family members are toxic, if every conversation is weighted with judgment and scorn. …


When 2020 is over, I hope we’ll remember what we learned

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Photo by Tyler Kaslik on Unsplash

I keep trying to see the whole of 2020 rather than its ugly, brutal parts. The bright beginning. The rapid shift. Long walks with my children while flowers bloomed. The beauty amid the chaos.

It has been a year of fairly unwelcome life lessons — but lessons all the same. …


You might not be eating enough

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Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

I am always on-the-go. As a self-employed single mother, it’s not uncommon for me to have coffee for breakfast and skip lunch before finally sitting down to eat dinner. So, when the scale started to go up, I couldn’t understand it.

I was sure I had been making healthier choices in my diet, and I was exercising regularly — both on my paddleboard and cycling. In fact, I was doing anywhere from an hour to two hours of exercise a day. How could I be gaining, not losing, weight?

It came as a shock to me that we can actually gain weight if we don’t eat enough. For the level of activity I was engaged in, I should have been eating 1500 calories a day to lose weight. After tracking my diet for a few of my regular days, I realized that I was getting less than 1000 calories per day — sometimes as little as 500 when I skipped meals. …


Healthy relationships help you level up, not break down.

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

All relationships are life lessons, but the ones I usually learn involve hurting me but eventually making me stronger. Every wrong partner taught me a little more about myself. After a couple of particularly devastating learning experiences, I figured out that I am more self-reliant and resourceful than I’ve ever known. I am capable of surviving hard things and using them to make me stronger.

As we move through this season of gratitude, I won’t be composing a thank you note to the ones who taught me these hard lessons. I can appreciate what I learned without directly appreciating the ways in which I learned them. In point of fact, some of the ways I learned were brutal, and I wouldn’t wish those experiences on anyone. …


A Poem

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Photo by El Salanzo on Unsplash

I see shades of you in shades of blue
From ocean dark to palest sky
The troubled hint beneath the surface
The stilled tongue quiet to avoid a lie

Mornings first are the lightest blue
Watercolor soft and sweet surrender
How you wake slower than I do
But when you wake you’re often tender

Later mornings when we emerge
Your color’s brighter, smooth and bold
We sip coffee and plan the day
A simple memory I keep to hold

And later still your mood is shifting
Ever changing like the sea
Passion strong to quiet moments
You’re every shade of blue to…

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