Making Old Dreams Today

This past Saturday, my husband and I attended our senior prom. Not a joke! For the last four years we’ve been going to something called the “Grown Ass Prom” in our town. It’s a night for adults to dress up, have a good time, drink (!), and do what they actually wanted to do back when they were 18.

One of the reasons I love going is because there is an element of ‘pretend’ about it all: adults are re-creating a past event to make the memories they wish they had made years ago. For instance: going as your true trans self, taking your gay or lesbian partner and getting those terrible prom photos together, taking your partner who you didn’t know in high school. And dressing how you want and just having a really great time doing whatever you want because you’re a fucking adult now who knows what they like. Not to mention the guarantee that you’re going to get laid afterwards. It’s glorious.

So, this was our fourth year attending. Our ‘senior’ year. And it was definitely the most fun we’ve had because we knew what we were doing and we knew how to make the best of it.

Our first year was about creating the memory of having prom together because we couldn’t have done that when we were 18. At that time, we lived in completely different parts of Washington state. My beloved is also three years older than I am, so it was highly unlikely he would have looked at me twice in high school. (He says he would have, but I disagree.) We tried to fit the ‘prom’ mold from days of yore.

 

This is the best of the photos, so I’m going with it. 

 

My own Lloyd Dobler.

 

We wore matching outfits. I wore something that looked like a ‘prom’ dress from the 1990s. It was my first few months into treatment for hypothyroidism so I didn’t feel great and it sort of shows. But we had a great time dancing (one of our favorite things to do together) and it felt like we had gone to prom together. We made a new memory we wished we had from our past.

Our second year was even better. I was feeling very normal, thyroid-wise, and knew exactly how I wanted to look and feel. I bought a leather dress, black pumps, and got my hair done in a mohawk (fauxhawk). I looked and felt exactly the way I wanted to. My husband looked fucking fabulous as his ‘Adam Ant’ self. We both felt like our own best version of ourselves.

 

I also wore a pair of black Chuck Taylor’s, cuz who dances in heels?

 

I had a vision of love / and it was all that you’ve given me…

 

This second year wasn’t about completing some old/new memory as much as it was about being who we were to the Nth degree and just having a good time. We danced our assess off; the husband took home a dancing award.

Last year was our third year (junior year!) and we had a group of friends to go with. This year we were energized by going with our friends for their first time with Grown Ass Prom. My thyroid was on the fritz again last year and so I also wasn’t feeling 100% myself, but I had a good time picking out some leather-look leggings and pouring myself into them. The husband went ‘balls to the wall’ with his outfit- threw on one of everything and owned it. He is a fashion badass and a risk-taker and I love him for it. He also won Prom King for his dancing skills.

 

Red-lipped and ready to dance.

 

Wearing all black does not make you look taller.

 

I think the thing I learned last year was that Grown Ass Prom was better than Halloween for me (which is heresy in New England). It’s better than Halloween because I can choose a new part of myself to explore that doesn’t have to be appropriate for taking children trick-or-treating or keeping me warm. I can play with being vampy or sexy or dominating or punk or whatever. It’s one night where I can be what I dream and see how it fits into my everyday self. And I took that knowledge into this year’s prom.

This year I have basically felt like shit, body wise. My thyroid is overproducing antibodies which blocks one of my medications and so it doesn’t work as well as it should. In the last 4 years I’ve lost half of my hair and gained 10 lbs. I still have a decent amount of hair and I still look cute in clothes, but I don’t feel comfortable in my body in the way that I did the second year of prom. And yet. I feel more sexy, alive, joyful, free, and satisfied than I have in years. Prom this year was about expressing those feelings, even if my body didn’t feel like I wanted it to.

 

Dreaming and doing.

 

Luckily, the shirt comes off.

 

Senior year: the photographer remembered us.

 

It turned out exactly like that. I loved my outfit- gradually lost the white shirt as the evening wore on because corsets are fucking warm when you dance (didn’t know that before!). I loved my hair and makeup and felt like a million bucks with my prom crew (now nine of us!). It was a wonderful night. [Except, swear to g-o-d, the DJ has sucked every year and this was no exception. Four years of terrible DJ-ing. How is that possible? I don’t know, but it’s true.]

While, technically, this was our ‘senior’ year of prom, we will definitely go again. We might try another venue- I think there is one in Massachusetts and one in a different location in Rhode Island, but we will definitely go to one. It’s too much fun to let it pass us by.

I think the thing I most want to say is that it’s important to keep growing and changing and having places to try out who you are. Because I’m not who I was at 20 or 30 or even 40. There is a throughline of consistency, but I am different, and better, than before. Prom gives me a place to play out different roles and experiences with myself, my husband, and my friends, and I think we all need safe places to do that. As well, making memories and meaning of our life is foundational to feeling we have lived well. We need to feel that we have done things we enjoy, feel proud of, lived in alignment with what we most value in order to be proud of our life. Prom is one of the things that helps me make meaning of my life and feel that I have lived joyfully and well.

 

 

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Just here, with love.

 

Photo by Erik Holm on Unsplash

 

Hey gang, how are you?

I just realized today that when I’m happy or busy, I don’t post as much. Ha! So, there you go. Life is being really good to me right now and I’m enjoying it. I have a theory that once you’re doing what Life wants you to be doing, life gets easier and better. I could be wrong, but that’s the way it’s worked for me, even in the rough times.

So, I shall have a proper post tomorrow, but it’s been on my mind and heart to just post a few simple things for the last few days now. Here they are.

Please, know that you are not alone. Whatever Life is throwing at you, you have people (me, if you need it!), you have places, you have love, and you have support in unknown places if you are feeling alone or adrift right now.

Be yourself. You’re the only you we’ve got. It takes all different kinds of stained glass to make those beautiful stained glass windows and works of art. Be what you are. Be who you are. We need you exactly like that.

For the most part, I love you. I don’t love people who are assholes or selfish or put themselves above others, so if you’re in those categories, you can fuck off. But otherwise, I love you (agape, not eros; I’ll let you know personally if it’s eros). And if you need to know that someone out here gives a damn, I do. I genuinely give a damn about you.

Rough times pass. Things change. My favorite meditation teacher says everything changes in the span of 30 breaths. So, give yourself 30 breaths. And maybe a glass of water. Or a nap. The only constant is change, and things will change.

If you are feeling confused, that is O-K. It took me 15 years to learn what to do with confusion: don’t beat yourself up about it. If you’re feeling confused, just let it be. The more settled you get, the more you just listen to your own life, the more you find ease and joy in the simple things and get calmed down, the more likely the confusion is to find its answer. Berating yourself for being confused does not make it better.

I am hoping for your best. I always end my prayers with the phrase “with the highest good for all”- and that’s for me and everybody else. Sometimes the ‘highest good’ looks more like ‘dealing with painful shit’ but that’s okay. You’ll get through it. Keep going, keep holding on, and keep reaching out for help.

Lastly, always, and again: I love you and I care about you.

Blessings to you all, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Modern Hymnal: We Belong

I haven’t thought about the modern hymnal for a long time, but this song came on the radio tonight, and I knew I wanted to add it. There probably should be a whole section in my modern hymnal for songs about rain; I’ll have to write that post sometime.

Tonight we had a lovely thunderstorm at my house. The sky was almost a charcoal gray, waiting for the rain to finally gather itself into fat drops and begin the short deluge, like angry water balloons splashing all over you. There was lightning and thunder and when it was all done the eery yellow light that seeps from the ground and gradually opens up to the sky as the clouds part. It was the kind of perfect rain that makes the heart of this Seattle girl feel at home in this strange land.

And Pat Benetar’s wonderful song was playing while all this happened. Always a favorite and glad to add it to the modern hymnal.

What’s in your sacred, personal hymnal, friends? What songs always delight you? Or fill your heart? Or remind you of something important, beautiful, or lost? I wish we could sit down together and talk about it.

 

Photo by Joy Stamp on Unsplash

 

We Belong

Many times I tried to tell you
Many times I cried alone
Always I’m surprised how well you cut my feelings to the bone
Don’t want to leave you really
I’ve invested too much time to give you up that easy
To the doubts that complicate your mind

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

Maybe it’s a sign of weakness when I don’t know what to say
Maybe I just wouldn’t know what to do with my strength anyway
Have we become a habit? Do we distort the facts?
Now there’s no looking forward
Now there’s no turning back
When you say

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream
Clear your mind and do your best to try and wash the palette clean
We can’t begin to know it, how much we really care
I hear your voice inside me, I see your face everywhere
Still you say

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder…

| Songwriters: Daniel Anthony Navarro / David Eric Lowen |

Find the video here.

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G’night from a happy girl, sitting in the rain.

Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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New Moon in Taurus

Hello, lovelies! I hope you are all doing well. Apparently there is some big shizz happening in the skies – moon cycle and otherwise – and it means a lot of change. Hold on to your hats! Here’s what they’re saying…

Over at Aeolian Heart Astrology, Rachel shares about how the new moon and the movement of Uranus into the sign of Taurus will work together:

As this new Uranian era progresses, reimagine your relationship to sudden shocks and disruptions. Even disasters can blossom into a profound awakening. And much like in the song Electric Feel, there is both eroticism and poetry in the experience of revelation. The lyrics describe a path of transcendence, where emotion, sexuality, and intellect are electrified into a state of boundless freedom.

This is the essence of Uranus’ purpose.

Remember that the element of uncertainty is not meant to paralyze you with fear. Like sex and beauty, it is meant to invigorate you with a renewed lust for life!

Therefore, rather than quaking in fear of the electric shocks that Uranus will bring, try to anticipate them with pleasure, knowing that you have the power to transmute any agony into ecstasy!

This transit will begin much more than a personal shift in consciousness. In recollection of the past and in homage to the future, the next seven years of Uranus in Taurus will bring tremendous evolution and revolution to humanity’s relationship to wealth, natural resources, and the earth’s beauty.

The New Moon and Uranus’s ingress into Taurus sound the beginning of a new era. Let this energy liberate your imagination, allowing your visions of the future to sparkle with new light!

 

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From Alex Myles over at Elephant Journal:

The moon is exalted when in Taurus, meaning the moon and Taurus adore one another, and the sensual affinity they share means they resonate with each other deeply and harmoniously. This causes lunar energy to feel intense during this period, making us feel highly intuitive and ultra sensitive.

Taurus is a grounded earth sign and represents the rational, responsible, financial, and material aspects of life. Those born under this sign are known to think about themselves and protect their own interests and stability before thinking about others, and this is where we are all going to learn huge and unforgettable lessons.

This new moon will feel gentle, but it is also going to flip our lives upside down and shake them up a little—just for long enough so we recognise how we are communicating, and who and what we are prioritising. Reviewing our lives helps us find compromise and achieve balance, and as with everything moon-related, it may destabilise us for a few days, but is beneficial for our highest good and personal evolution.

The reason our lives will temporarily feel like a roller-coaster is that all too often, Taurus’ energy exists in a bubble where they place themselves high above others, which can be healthy in moderation, but when there’s little regard for the people surrounding them, relationships can break down and fail. Therefore, we will be forced to take a long, hard look at how we express ourselves and how often we ignore those who mean the most to us, particularly when they need it most.

We don’t realise what we’ve lost until it has long gone, and we then have no choice but to face the realisation that we haven’t put enough effort into our relationships with friends and loved ones. Fortunately, this new moon is offering us a warning before we reach the “too little, too late” stage so we can make vital changes before bonds are severed and bridges burn to the ground.

The cosmic energy swirling in the air will have a major impact on our intimate relationships as we realise what we truly value, desire, and need to feel fulfilled. The most effective way of finding this out is by learning to embody the essence of unconditional love and acceptance, so we glow from within, rather than seeking external materialism, validation, and love.

 

Photo by Jordon Conner on Unsplash

 

From Bairavee Balasubramaniam (a.k.a. The Sky Priestess):

Take the time to sit with yourself and know what it is you truly want. This is not an intellectual exercise or a philosophical one. It is a consciousness that radiates out of the core of your cellular being. This will help you better prepare for Uranus’ shift into Taurus.

Trust your body’s wisdom.
Trust its connection with the Earth and Sky.
And things will be clearer.

Even if the answers are not yet clear, give yourself permission to receive them when you are ready. 

[Okay, not about the moon, but sound advice for pretty much anything, so it stays.]

 

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From TheGoddessCircle.net:

Put focus and energy into intentions.
Commit.
Focus.
Plant seeds and tend soil.
Feed intentions.
What is worth putting your resources into?
Expect changes to environment, jobs, relationships, and beliefs.
Freedom.
Clear away the old.
Be flexible with change. 

 

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One of my favorite writers and teachers, Marybeth Bonfiglio:

Also :: this new moon stuff is hard.

It’s not a gifting give away. This new moon is going to demand that we reach hard core into pivoting ourselves. It’s going to break open the earth under us and make us look at the roots we have been growing. Are they short and scattered? Or are they deep and close to home? Where are we putting our time? What systems are we still connected to that don’t line up with our hearts? Have we been tending to our soil? Are our roots rotted? Being strangled by invasive species because our boundaries have been shit? This moon asks us to spend some time paying attention to how we have been connecting ourselves to the places within and underneath us. To the places we occupy.

This is the season of the Mother, of new life bursting everywhere. Of blooms opening. Of days lengthening. This is the season of Earth, of Taurus, the deepest sign of the ladylands. What does this mean to you? What does it mean to be living in the cosmic vibration of grounded Earth? How can that inform what you are doing today? Tomorrow? How can that inform how you breathe into this new moon? How can that navigate you to unzip yourself and listen as loud as you can?

 

 

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I think there’s not much else to say, my loves. Center in yourself. Stay strong enough to bend and release. Open your arms enough to both let go of that which isn’t working and welcome in that which you desire in your deepest heart. And hydrate!

See you on the flip side!
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Some things about grief. And love.

Off and on for most of this week, there has been a song playing in my head. It’s “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. It’s a song about missing someone who has died and how the belief that they live on (in heaven, in this case) brings comfort and a hope for eternal reunion.

Now, admittedly, I have been listening to a bit more Mariah Carey than usual. She’s been a reminder of Spring to me this year (also, my entire summer fashion ethos stems from her clothes in this video). But this is different. This song has been invading my head. It’s not like it just shows up out of the blue. It’s more like the song is insistent- it shows up and I can’t quite get it to go away. I try to think of another song, but this one comes back.

This isn’t a weird thing for me, in some ways. I have strange ‘gifts’. I can find lost things for people I care about. My Dad once asked for help finding a ring of my mother’s. I could see the ring and told him what the surroundings were like- dark, green, soft. He found it in his green truck, in a small, velvety pocket. I’ve ‘found’ other things- important pieces of clothing, lost papers, old mementos. (I sometimes wonder if I am attracted to people, or they are attracted to me, because some part of them is lost and I know how to find it again.)

I’m not sure how I came by this gift. I have looked at being empathic, being highly sensitive, being intuitive, and being slightly psychic. My spiritual guide says I’m a highly sensitive person, instead of empathic. I suppose it doesn’t matter what the label is, I still can do the thing.

Another thing this ‘gift’ does is it sometimes pushes back at me. It’s like I have a very wide, sensitive net around me and sometimes I can simply listen to what’s going on in the strings, but sometimes things get caught in it. Like this song.

Now, I don’t think this is some kind of direct revelation, a la The Bible. I think it’s simply my psyche taking in some information from the ethereal web and translating it into something I identify with. So, somewhere, someone I know is probably dealing with grief right now. Maybe they have experienced grief lately, maybe they are just surrounded by it. I don’t know. I also don’t know who it is- I’m connected to lots of people emotionally and I’m not sensitive enough to know who it is specifically (believe me, I wish I could know sometimes. At least then I could tell people to watch out for X or help them deal with Y). But whoever you are, this is for you.

 

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

 

When I was in college, I worked at a nursing home as CNA and I saw people die. I sat with them at the moments before, during, and after their death. I washed the warm and cooled bodies of people after they passed. The first time scared the shit out of me. Every time after I volunteered, because I knew I would be gentle and patient, where others had not been.

I have seen the moment of death be full of fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, fight. I have also seen the moment of death be full of acceptance, calm, love, relaxation, strength, and curiosity. Please do not equate the ‘good’ moments of death with ease. Difficult dying can still bring peaceful moments. People who die by suicide are some of the strongest people I have known (they misguidedly think that their death will be a relief for themselves and others, which, of course, it isn’t). [It would be misguided of me to not say this: if you are considering suicide, please take the time to call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. And please consider these stories from people who survived jumping from the Golden Gate bridge; their difficulties became workable and so can yours.]

One thing that was clear at all the deaths I have been a part of is that the moment after, the moment when the brain is quiet and the lungs no longer expand or contract, is a very peaceful moment. It is a relaxation of everything. The final breathing out that lets everything go. It’s over and everything can begin to settle and unfold. It is the end of life, but the beginning of death, which is a very peaceful (and active) process.

There are belief systems which state that what we say or think at the moment of our death impacts our karma in the next life. Other belief systems state that our souls are whisked away to some other place in another plane of existence after death. Of course, other belief systems state that we go nowhere, simply returning to dust and dirt. Based on my experiences, I am a firm believer in the First Law of Thermodynamics: that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed. I believe we get transformed when we die. (I do believe in reincarnation- there is simply too much evidence for it- but I think the remembrance of past lives is a rarity.)

All of this is to set the ground to point towards grief. Because there are many kinds of death in this life, not just the ones involving the loss of physical life. And they all involve transformation. I believe grief is the work of transformation for those who are left behind.

Despite the model of the Five Stages of Grief, we all know that grief is anything but linear. Grief is something that may grab us when death first arrives. Or it may sit quietly near us and just…exist…for a good long time. Sometimes grief dissipates quickly, like an insect bite that heals quickly. And sometimes grief is a deep, heavy burden to bear that almost refuses to budge (this seems to be most true when grief opens the door for longer-term depression). Grief has its own way, its own time, its own color and rhythm and intensity. For each death, grief is its own dance. For some, this dance is haggard and horrible. For others it is difficult, but graceful. It depends on what our hearts have the resiliency to deal with.

One definition of grief that I love comes from Susan Piver who wrote The Wisdom of a Broken Heart. She wrote that grief is love with no target. Our love, whatever it may look like, leaves us and roams around the places inside us, inside our life, where we used to connect with someone or something that has died. And because it ricochets, it touches us, over and over again.

This idea has comforted me greatly for the seasons of grief in my own life. I have also experienced that grief tends to come and go, sometimes arriving quite unexpectedly. My grief for a great grandmother who died when I was seven only returned to be fully felt when I was 15. Every year when I see snapdragons I have a ‘ping’ of grief for my grandfather’s death. A friend only grieved for her grandmother after her dog and rabbit died in the same week. For some, grief is a box they carry in their heart, always. For others, it is a cloud that comes to sit with them on important days and anniversaries. In my experience, grief does tend to dissipate with the years, the weight is not as heavy. But it also never quite goes away. It can heal, but the scar is still something we can run our fingers over, even if it does not hold the pain of the open wound.

Whoever you are out there, the one who has connected with me in such a way that your song of grief pings back to me, I want you to know this: grief is normal. It is also strange. And it is a journey only you can walk through, but you should not always walk alone. Let those who love you carry you sometimes- you don’t have to tell them the whole story, just let them comfort you and support you (make sure they are not stuck in their own grief, because this can drag you both down). Grief can heal, but it will also likely sting in places you never expected. It’s okay to feel the sting; feeling it is the only way to get through it. Grief is also a way to see how much we loved the other person, experience, idea, dream, whatever. Try to love the love. It is what’s best about you and your relationship with the one who passed.

Perhaps it is strange that all this should come from a Mariah Carey song being stuck in my head this Spring. But perhaps not. Because even as I write this, there are petals falling from the trees in my back yard, already dead and dying. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. And all we can do is be glad to be alive, living through all of it.

Big love to you all, most especially to those who grieve,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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