Ranée

Name

Birth names, given names, first names, middle names, last names, surnames, nicknames, pet names, found names, dead names, pen names, code names. How many names do we have over the course of our lifetimes? I’ve thought a lot about this, not just with regard to my writing and my career in terms of which of my names to publish under but also with reference to my personal life. I’ve had internal debates with myself over what my true name is, why that’s so, and why and just how much it matters to me, so needless to say, I don’t subscribe to that notion that one’s name or what one chooses to call oneself holds no meaning. Quite the opposite.

I have been called many names, but there’s a short list of ones that I’ll answer to these days. I was born with the name Jamie Ranee Kunkle. That’s one on the list considering that a lot of people knew me by that name. I also published an interview with mystery writer Jan Burke (Clues: A Journal of Detection, Volume 25, no. 4) under my former name. My current legal name is Jamie Ranee Aughenbaugh (not Mrs. Scott Aughenbaugh) and that one’s also on the list of names I associate with myself since it appears on all legal documents. I also publish this site under the name Jamie Aughenbaugh, it’s the one that appears on my business cards, and it’s the name in which my LLC is registered. All posts on the blog portion of this site are attributed to Jamie Ranée, my WordPress ID, and that’s another name on the acceptable list. Given that my first name is only two syllables, you’d think that I wouldn’t have a nickname, but a few people have still tried to shorten Jamie to something else. The only nickname that I’m OK with is J.R., but my dad’s the only one who calls me that; that’s also the reason why I like it.

Of all of my names, my middle name, Ranée, is the one that I now know will always be with me. It comes from the French word rené (masculine form) or renée (feminine form), the English equivalent of which is “reborn” or “born again.” The name and its meaning are inextricably linked with my totem, the phoenix, a mythical bird of fire that dies, consumed by flame, only to be born again from its own ashes. During a meditation session, I heard the name in my mind and saw a very powerful vision of myself and the creature. Ever since, both bird and name have signified hope, faith, courage, perseverance, and strength to me. They are a reminder of my own metaphorical rebirth and I know now that whatever befalls me, I will always come back.

She rises from the ashes, her soul aflame
Ranée

Rainbow Connection

Site of the momentous occasion

Today marks a major milestone for me—I did an unassisted handstand! A couple of months ago, I set a goal for myself that I would do a handstand for real, by which I meant nothing supporting me but my hands. I’d been practicing against the wall during my third-eye and crown chakra yoga routines. I started by balancing on my hands, with my feet braced against the wall, my body in an L shape. I gradually started inching my feet farther up the wall. My husband eventually cleared the PERFECT space for me to practice right next to the Army of Darkness poster in our basement. I say perfect because (a) it’s Army of Darkness and Bruce Campbell and my goal was to kick fear’s ass just like Ash kicked those demons’ asses, and (b) when I fully stretched out, my feet just managed to touch that area of dropped ceiling. Well, today, I braced myself with my hands like I always do, then stretched my legs up toward the ceiling. As the toes of one foot brushed the lower ceiling, I thought to myself, I don’t need to brace my feet. In that moment, I let go, and I did it! I did a handstand! Then I got so excited about the fact that I was doing it that I fell, but that’s OK. The important thing was I did it and now I know that I can do it again.

Today’s milestone is pretty significant for me in terms of both my personal healing process and my growth as a practitioner of both yoga and meditation. I am so incredibly grateful for the progress I’ve made. A few years ago, when I decided to rehaul my lifestyle in the name of self-care, I vowed that exercise would be a part of my daily regimen. Although it took me a while to settle on specific cardio exercises that I liked and could stick with, there was never any question that yoga would be a part of my daily fitness routine.

I’ve been practicing yoga in general for several years now and I like using the Yoga Studio app for iPhone. A few years ago, before the rehaul, I felt drawn to practice their series of chakra yoga classes. Right around the same time, I began doing some guided meditation and read Mindfulness In Plain English. Although neither yoga nor meditation became a daily thing for me until post-awakening or rebirth or whatever you want to call it, my intro to meditation and chakras was the start of something pretty major—a step in my path toward achieving balance in my life. Since I’ve begun to practice both daily, they’ve made a HUGE difference in my life and healing journey.

Although I’ve been practicing chakra yoga for a couple of years now, I only recently read Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga. That book was a game-changer. Judith includes overviews of each of the seven major chakras and discusses specific yoga poses that target each one. She also includes a whole sequence of poses designed for each of the chakras. A sequence focused on the root chakra (muladhara), which is all about connection to the ground/earth, involves standing poses such as tree and mountain that stress a strong foundation. The second chakra, svadhistana, or sacral chakra, is stimulated by hip-opening poses like happy baby, lizard, monkey, and mermaid, one of my favorites (see a pic of my rendition below). Manipura, the solar plexus chakra, is all about ab work. The fourth chakra, anahata, is (literally) the heart of it all. Heart-opening poses include the aptly named melting heart pose, bow, camel, cobra, and wheel. Visuddha, the throat chakra, is stimulated by poses involving the neck and shoulders. Ajna, the third-eye chakra, is best activated by balancing poses and inversions such as headstands and handstands, which require exceptional focus to maintain. The seventh chakra, sahasrara, is the crown chakra. Judith admits that this chakra is much better served by meditation and says that there are not many poses devoted specifically to sahasrara. Her recommended sahasrara sequence follows the path of the kundalini, moving through each of the other chakras in turn, and is designed to open up all of the chakras, activating the crown chakra in the process. I have to admit, it’s one of my favorites. Today’s focus for me happened to be the third-eye and crown chakras, hence the handstand I did as part of this morning’s routine.

After reading Judith’s book, I wanted to put her suggested routines into practice. I used the Seconds App to create custom classes based on the routines in Judith’s book. Because I’m a huge dork who’s totally obsessed with music—I also created custom playlists to accompany each one. I’ve been practicing one or more of these routines every day since. I noticed a profound difference. Since day 1, my practice has become much more wholistic—an integrated mind-body-soul experience. Each day, both my yoga practice and my daily meditation are dedicated to whatever chakras are in need of focus or out of balance. I’ve become quite passionate about yoga this past year in particular; it’s right up there with writing and music for me now. I’ve contemplated getting an instructor certification, but that for now, I continue to develop my personal practice and I look forward to where it takes me next.

On Writing, Ranée

One

Say what?! My LLC is a year old!

One year ago today, I filed the paperwork to establish RE:Written as an LLC. I’m still a bit awed that it’s already been a whole year, but that’s mostly because things didn’t really get off the ground until about five or six months in. Back in February of last year, I learned that the company I was working for had decided to outsource production work on their journals, which meant my job would no longer exist come December. I wasn’t bitter or frightened; rather, my initial reaction was one of excitement. Something awesome is about to happen, I remember thinking. At the time, I had no more than an inkling that perhaps it might be time to strike out on my own, to do something for me, something that I was really passionate about, but it took some more thought and no small amount of inspiration for that notion to become the fully formed idea of creating my own company. Starting a new business at the beginning of a pandemic is probably one of the boldest (and reckless) things I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret it. Navigating this new phase of my life has certainly been challenging over the past year. The past few months have been particularly rough as my severance pay ran out and the job applications far outnumbered the interview requests, but each time that I’ve worked with a client and heard their expressions of gratitude, I’ve remembered exactly why I started RE:Written in the first place and it’s only made my love of my work that much stronger. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have wonderful, encouraging people in my life who’ve been willing to help me with advice, referrals, content creation, love, and support. They’ve kept me going and I am incredibly grateful for that. I thank all of them, my clients, and all of you who follow or read this page or my social media for being a part of the journey thus far. I look ahead to what Year Two will bring with excitement and anticipation because I know it’s going to be amazing!

On Writing, Ranée

This Woman’s Work

Hey there! Thought I’d give you a little glimpse into my work for this Thursday. The relaunch of Tazeric is a little over two months away (June 1!), so I’m hard at work on John’s revisions this week. I’m also still writing my own novel (I’m deep into the shit-shoveling phase on that) and developing a workshop on dialogue.

I’m armed with a full water bottle, a cup of tea, candles, my notebook, and an Art of Ophelia pen (tools of this writer’s trade). Today’s also the first day in a very long while that I’m actually listening to records while working. Check out today’s rainy day soundtrack in the photos below.

Ranée

Welcome to My Nightmare

We sweat and laugh and scream here
'Cause life is just a dream here
— Alice Cooper 

When I was a kid, I was terrified of clowns. And when I say terrified, I’m not exaggerating. Whenever I saw a clown, my heart would start beating rapidly, I’d feel my throat constrict and my body start to sweat in a panic, and I wanted to either scream or run away. I remember being so frightened of them that I felt safe marching in parades as a majorette because if I was in the parade, then the clowns who were also in the parade couldn’t approach me to try to talk to me or give me candy.

If there’s one incident from my childhood that illustrates just how frightened I was of clowns, it’s the time that my dad’s cousin-in-law, Bob, came to our house wearing clown makeup. The instant I saw him at our back door, I screamed in terror, raced back the hall to my room, crawled under my bed, and hid there. I scared the shit out of my little brother so badly that he ran with me to my room and crawled under the bed too. Bob, still in clown makeup, came back to my room, knelt down on the floor, peered under the bed and tried to tell two screaming, frightened children who he was and get us to come out, but all I saw was a creepy clown reaching under the bed to try to grab me. It was my worst nightmare come to life. I didn’t stop screaming or come out of hiding until that man had washed all the makeup off his face and it took me a long while to calm down after that scare.

I’m no longer scared of clowns and haven’t been for some time, but I still find them creepy; the same goes for ventriloquist dummies and puppets and, to a lesser extent, mannequins and even some dolls. The episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer titled “The Puppet Show,” gave me the wiggins (to use the Scooby Gang’s lingo) and to this day, I have refused to read or watch Stephen King’s It because I was afraid that it would resurrect my childhood fear and give me horrible nightmares.

Over the years, I’ve pondered just what it was about clowns, dummies, and the like that scared me so much as a kid and I think it was the fact that they’re a grotesque mockery of the human. Dummies, puppets, mannequins, and dolls are meant to resemble humans but they’re not. Clowns, although they’re actual people, wear exaggerated face makeup that makes their features look unnaturally large and phony. To my child self, these things weren’t interesting or cute or amusing but downright monstrous.

Recently, I had a dream about conquering my childhood fear of clowns. I facetiously said to myself, “Well, I guess it’s time for me to finally read It,” but that dream actually meant something quite different and a great deal more to me. I despise lying and deception, dislike phony people, and get particularly disgusted with those who deliberately try to fool, deceive, or manipulate others (really, who are they trying to kid?). To the adult me, clowns, dummies, puppets, and such are a metaphor for the masks that people wear and the very nature of reality, the phoniness and lies that pervade society. It’s a sick sort of reminder that the face that others choose to show to you often isn’t real, that we can’t trust how things might appear on the surface. The message is clear: I need to see the puppet show for what it is—don’t watch the little figure performing who’s trying to distract me, but keep my eye fixed on the one behind the scenes pulling the strings (the true self). I must look closer, deeper, to truly see. If I do, then the truth can never be hidden.

There is another part to this, though. I think my subconscious is also telling me that I need to start outright letting people know that they’re not fooling me. I don’t mean just calling people on their bullshit (the ones who are pretending for meanness sake), but those who show a different face to the world because they’re hurting or afraid or in pain, those for whom the mask is a form of self-protection. Telling people that I see who they really are, that I care, and letting them know that they don’t have to pretend with me or hide from me is even more important.

On Writing, Ranée

Cosmic Dancer

I danced myself right out the womb
Is it strange to dance so soon?
— Marc Bolan

Ever since I can remember, there was music in my life—Mom singing me nursery rhyme songs or dancing around the house to one of her favorite tunes, Dad making up silly (sometimes dirty) little ditties or playing his records, the Pittsburgh Oldies station, 3WS, playing every time we went somewhere in the car. That exceptional early exposure to and shared passion for music left an indelible impact on me. I grew to love music just as much as I loved stories and, just like stories, music has ever been my muse, my outlet, and my savior.

You know that scene in Guardians of the Galaxy where Starlord presses play on his Walkman and dances and lip syncs to “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone? Yeah, that’s me. When I was a kid, I used to dress up, pop a cassette tape into my purple boombox, grab a brush to serve as my makeshift microphone, and lip sync to Jem and the Holograms songs. As a teenager, I performed in choral groups and a musical, knew all the words to pop songs on the radio (even the ones I couldn’t stand and, yes, I always sang along), and made dozens of mix tapes and CDs. Even now, I have songs that resonate with me so much that I consider them theme songs, everything that I write has its own soundtrack, I have something of an obsession with vinyl records, and I have loads of playlists on my phone for everything from workouts to my quasi-pyromania. It was music that brought my husband and I together. I met him at a bar in Kent, Ohio the summer after I completed my master’s degree. He drove me back to my car and we sang along with the radio and in that moment, I felt more comfortable with him than I had with anyone I’d met in the entire two years I’d spent in my program. This is all to say that I truly think my musically obsessed nerdom might be at the Rob Fleming level.

At one point in High Fidelity, a depressed Rob wonders “Which came first, the music or the misery?” It’s a chicken and egg question really and I totally get what Hornby (through Rob) was saying about the power of music. It affects my emotions like nothing else, amplifying or altering my mood far more than any drug ever has. That power was never more evident to me than when I began to heal.

I became depressed back in high school and it stayed with me for decades, festering. Music, like writing, became my solace; it helped me to both embrace my bad feelings (acknowledge them) and escape them. I would write about what I felt, what I experienced, because I didn’t believe that I could or should talk about it. It was a lot of very dark, moody, material, reminiscent of E. A. Poe’s gory, weird tales of horror. I would also write what I wished that I felt, what I hoped that my life might be like, creating characters who talked with each other about what they were feeling, tried to help one another heal, and showed each other love. At some point, the music, like my writing, began to fade. If depression hadn’t made me such an utter zombie, I would’ve seen that as a clear sign that things had gone way too far.

Then one day, I walked into this little record store at the mall where my husband had shopped a few times before, intending only to buy him a record or two as a birthday gift, but as I strolled around the store, browsing the racks, something strange happened. I saw albums and artists that I’d grown up listening to and it began to rekindle my lost love. I hadn’t owned or even really listened to a record since I was a kid, but when my fingers flipped through the “R”s in the Rock/Pop section and found that rather worn copy of Lou Reed’s Transformer, I felt compelled to buy it because it was mine, it belonged to me. When I brought that record home, put it on the turntable, pressed play, and heard the opening guitar riff of “Vicious” issue from the speakers, I was transformed. From that moment on, music, followed closely by writing, re-entered my life again in earnest, turning up the volume on my emotional and psychological healing. It was no accident that I found that record that day. Music and writing are a vital part of my self, my soul; without them, I withered and when I found them again, I began to bloom. They were my voice when I had none and they helped me to finally find my own.

Ranée

Shelter From the Storm

Change is chaotic. Comes with the territory. But I’m a firm believer that change is also positive and necessary for growth. I’m in the midst of what I feel in my heart is a very crucial transition in my life on more than one level. One chapter is ending for me, yes, but another is just beginning.

My professional life is in a bit of an upheaval at present. I just passed the five-year milestone in my current position, which is typically a cause for celebration. However, that role also ends on December 1 of this year due to outsourcing and although the work is winding down for me, I’ve still got plenty to do plus home projects and an eight-year-old in virtual school while both my husband and I are working from home. I’ll admit that it’s been discouraging trying to find other jobs; there aren’t a whole lot of prospects yet the pool of job seekers is growing ever larger. On top of all that, I feel as if I’ve had no time for business development.

Contemplating a career change when you’re in your forties or older can be scary enough. Oddly though, when I learned earlier this year that my position was being made redundant, my initial reaction wasn’t one of fear or even sadness or shock, but rather a strange mix of curiosity and excitement. Something awesome is coming, I thought. Well, that initial optimism has waned over the past several months and I’m now looking for a way to revive it, to remain steadfast in that faith.

In the past, when I felt anxious or depressed, I employed some very poor coping mechanisms such as impulsive spending and drinking alcohol. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that the former resurfaced as I transitioned off my prescription medication over the past month. Fear got me; fear that I couldn’t manage without it. Well, guess what? That’s bullshit. I can cultivate my own calm amidst the chaos because I’ve developed a number of helpful strategies over the past couple of years. I still take a small dose of CBD oil daily, but I made a list of my “will dos.”

  • Meditate/pray
  • Practice yoga/exercise
  • Listen to music
  • Write
  • Spend time in nature/stargaze
  • Spend time/talk with loved ones
  • Do breathing exercises
  • Burn candles/make a fire
  • Engage in other creative projects

All of these things are proven ways for me to face any fear, anxiety, and depressed mood that arises. They keep me grounded and focused, remind me that I’m a strong, capable person with much to be grateful for, afford me outlets for expressing my thoughts and feelings, and help me to combat any contributing negative forces. These are the foundations on which I will build my shelter from the storm.

Ranée

Let It Go

"I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear.  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.  Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain."  
— Frank Herbert, Dune, emphasis added

The above lines were in my head yesterday because I was contemplating the purpose of meditation. For me, it’s not about completely emptying your mind and ignoring thoughts and feelings that arise. It’s been my personal experience that repressing things that you don’t want to acknowledge or deal with only leads to further problems and inhibits the healing process. Instead, for me, meditation is more about acknowledging thoughts or emotions that have come up, even those that make me uncomfortable (perhaps I should say especially those unsettling ones), and reflecting on why I am experiencing them. This is the most important part of the Frank Herbert quote for me, the part that I emphasized in italics. By acknowledging and contemplating the reasons behind thoughts/emotions, I thereby learn something about myself in the process and with this knowledge I can then choose to take action to change a situation or alter my behavior or mindset. If what I am feeling or thinking about is out of my control, I can acknowledge it, understand it, and then let it go. Thus, letting go, in this sense, doesn’t mean repressing something or trying to forget about it, but the exact opposite—actually dealing with it, permitting yourself to feel it, think it, experience it, and then once you have, you are able to move on. That weight, so to speak, has lifted. The Dune quote is really quite a beautiful mantra and, for me, a very apt description of what meditation is all about.

Ranée

Silent All These Years

I got something to say but nothing comes
Yes, I know what you think of me, you never shut up
— Tori Amos, "Silent All These Years"

I spent most of my life embodying the above lyrics. I listened to everyone else talk. And talk. And talk. They seemed to never shut up, never pause to actually listen once in a while, and if I tried to speak or by some miracle managed to get a word in, it merely became a springboard for the talkers to start in again. I had things to say too. I wanted to be heard. But I couldn’t find my voice. I was like the Little Mermaid, sacrificing her voice to Ursula to be complacent.

Apart from the very bad, unhealthy habit of buying myself things I couldn’t afford, didn’t need, and in most cases, didn’t even want, I didn’t really do things for myself, took little action, and instead just let things happen to me even well into adulthood. As a result, I did a lot of things that I didn’t really want to but felt as if I had to. Those of us who do that seem to have this warped idea that we’re somehow being noble or caring or that it’s good to be so goddamn self-sacrificing because we’re supposed to care more about others than ourselves. Why do we crucify ourselves like that? We can care about others without being martyrs for crying out loud and it’s not selfish to give a shit about yourself, speak your mind, and say “no” to other people (you can do it politely). I think many of us who act this way have been bullied in the past and we’ve gotten used to just giving in to everyone else and forgetting about ourselves. We even find it difficult to figure out who we really are because we haven’t taken the time. Of course other people love you when you’re a martyr—why wouldn’t they? You do everything for them, nothing for yourself, make them look stellar, and you fade into the background like the shadow you’ve become. But, chances are, those people don’t respect you. Someone who respected you wouldn’t treat you like that in the first place and, moreover, they’d want to see you shine, not burn out and fade away. This line came to me in meditation: When you put yourself last, you don’t play the hero but rather the fool and ultimately you just end up resenting all the people you’re trying so hard to please (for more of my thoughts on this see Beginning to See the Light). I think it’s incredibly apt.

It’s still difficult for me to say no to people, to speak my mind and not let things fester. It feels strange. Taking action of my own volition instead of waiting for someone else to do something also feels foreign, but it’ll get easier. The important thing that I now remind myself of is that I have a voice and I need to use it. People will listen. And I can say no to people and things without feeling bad about doing it. Offering an explanation of my feelings helps, but so does knowing that the person I’m saying no to respects me enough to accept my response. If they don’t, then that speaks volumes about the nature of our relationship and is a cue to me that it’s one that perhaps I should rethink.

Blue is the color associated with the fifth chakra, the throat chakra. It’s the color of the candle a dear friend made for me to assist me with healing in this respect. Over the past several weeks, it’s cracked to the point where just moments ago, hot wax started spilling out through a hole and all over the desk. If that isn’t symbolic, I don’t know what is. Clearly, I have found my voice! As Tori sang, “it’s been here . . . silent all these years,” but not anymore.

Ranée

Strange

“You’re so weird!”

I consider those words among the highest compliments. I personally would rather be called “weird” or some synonym of that word than most other adjectives. It means a lot to me if someone truly likes me for my strangeness because the things that make us weird are usually the things that others don’t like about us. If you’re someone I care about and I tell you that you’re weird or a weirdo, it’s because it’s one of the things I love most about you. I’ve been known to say to someone, “You’re so fucking weird! Can we hang out?” And I totally mean it. Most people like to hide their strangeness but I love the ones who embrace it; your weirdness makes you unique. My son, for instance, is totally weird (his *own* weird) and I LOVE all of his little quirks. At this moment in his life, he lets his strangeness shine even when others try to dim it and I hope with all my heart that he stays that way. I don’t want anyone to diminish that boy’s shine.

Granted, there are many different brands or flavors of weird out there and one person’s strange may not be another’s. That’s probably why most people choose to hide their quirks—they fear being disliked. I did. But, look, no matter how hard you try, there are just some people out there who aren’t going to like you and your particular oddities (and vice versa). And they don’t have to. Once we stop thinking we have to please everyone or that we should be liked by everybody, we can just let others get on with their own thing and take solace in the people who find our strangeness endearing or appealing.

To my fellow freaks: please don’t dim your shine—not for anyone. Your strangeness is beautiful and there are people out there like me who love you for it.