Archive | February, 2016

Forty-one :: A year of devotion

Yesterday I turned 41. It was a wonderful day where I did something I’ve never done for myself before: I let everyone who loved me, love me. I actually took the time to open my heart and accept all the love people sent me. It left me in happy tears with a deep sense of healing and being loved.

As I wrote in my ‘Reckoning’ post, I was so excited to greet my 40th  year, so hopeful to live it. And it was a really tough year. I can’t say that it was ‘awful’ – it was just tough. The lessons I learned were hard; I didn’t like them. But that doesn’t mean it was an awful year.

One of the things I did for 40 was write a giant manifesta about what I wanted and would accomplish. It was full of energy- and, in a way, that’s exactly what I got back.

This year is different, though. I read something a few days ago that made everything in my chest heat up and my whole internal world stopped. | read that to me again, I said. |

“Here is what I think about desire.  I think it drives me crazy.  Not because I judge myself around my desires or feel shame because of them, but because a desire is a longing or as the dictionary says an act of “wanting”. 

To want, *for me*, in many situations, is self-loathing.  Because it’s literally the worship of what I don’t have.  It’s paying attention to what I wish for.  It’s trying to find a feeling different than the one I am currently in – so that somehow I can satisfy it.  It’s an escape for me. From being present.”

| From MaryBeth Bonfiglio’s ‘Seduce Yourself’ class |

 

Last year was a giant step forward in my ‘outward’ energy. This year, I am going inside and staying with the ‘inward’ energy. It is not that I won’t desire, it is that I will give my devotion first to myself and what I am, not the outward ‘what I am not,’ spoken of in this quote.

There is a part of me that has been asking for attention for years now. I wrote about it here. I know her, but she is growing. Now, she is also the one who does not hide her heart behind explanations anymore. She is slow, she is jeans, deep pink, and touches me with the gentleness of a new lover. This is also the part of me that is ready for a deeper connection to sensuality. She wants to bathe in the liquid love of sensuality.

This year, I am devoted to her. Right now, she is only a feeling. But I am devoted to holding that feeling in my body, and letting it grow and ripple into myself. We are falling in love with each other, already.

I am also devoted to curiousness about myself and exploration of myself. I am healed enough (and still ever healing), and this past year has been quite a transition. Now, I want to find new parts of myself. Whatever they may be- embarrassing, not fitting neatly into my identity, what makes me cry or feel ridiculous or joyful – I devote myself to my own truth.

I am devoted to my marriage this year. Not that I haven’t been. But even more, I want to pour more of my soul into this connection. Because he loves me so much and I love him, too.

I am devoted to my (biological) cycle this year. By living it, and living well by it. And loving it up. A woman’s cycle is her magic and I want to fill up with magic.

I am devoted to self-love and self-empathy. Oh, when I greet myself exactly where I am, everything shifts and calms. It is a practice I need desperately right now.

I am devoted to my children. To seeing them even more deeply, connecting with them in their unique worlds and showing them what support and growth really look like in real life.

I am devoted to self love. Simply noticing myself – who and what I am right now – and loving whoever that is.

I am devoted to my healing work. I am very good at helping people put their souls back together. And I wish to do more of that.

::: ::: ::: :::

Last year, I picked a song to guide me through the year (its was my New Year’s thing). This year, I have two songs (plus the one from last year, because it was so good and useful in guiding me forward). They both express something important about my year ahead.

The first song is “Sugar, How You Get So Fly” by Sugar Fix.

She’s something mystical in colored lights/
So far from typical but take my advice/
Before you play with fire do think twice/
And if you get burned don’t be surprised

Yep, that’s definitely the outward feeling of who I am and want to be. It’s also a recognition of how good a person I am and how much I’m worth. Back up: I’m fly.

The inward feeling is “Sweet and Low” by Augustana. The chorus is really the point for me. How it sounds and feels are the soft part of me that wants expression. (The rest of the lyrics aren’t that great- it is 99% the feel of that chorus that is speaking to me.)

Those, plus last year’s “Shut Up and Dance” will get me through and guide me, I believe.

::: ::: ::: :::

Last year, I did a project on Facebook called “40 Shades of Forty” – sort of a protest to the “Fifty Shades of Gray” thing, but also a document of my 40th year. Yesterday I finished it. Walking into 41 I know what I’m made of.

I am made of truth, health, love, hope, and faith. And I am made of my becoming. I am always me, becoming me.

Joanna Meriwether holding a sign about what she's made of: health, love, truth

 

 

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Valentine to Mid-Life Woman

I said I would post about my dreams for my new year today. But I didn’t have the time, because I had a great birthday, instead. So, I will post tomorrow. For Valentine’s Day, here is a lovely poem from David Whyte.

Valentine to a Mid-Life Woman

Mid life woman
you are not
invisible to me.
I seem to see
beneath your face
all the women
you have ever been.

Midlife woman
I have grown with you
secretly,
in another parallel,
breathing with you
as you breathed,
seeing with you
as you see
lining my face
with an earned care
as you lined yours,
waiting for you,
as it seems
you waited for me.

I see your
inner complexion
breathing beneath
your outward gaze,
I see all your lives
and all your loves,
it must be for you
that I wanted to become
more generous,
a better man
than I could ever be
when young,
let me join all your
present giving
and all your receiving,
through you I learn
the full imagination
of every previous affection.

Mid life woman
you are not
invisible to me,
in you
I see a young girl,
lifting her face to the sky,
I see the young woman,
haloed in light,
full and strong,
standing before
the altar of time,
waiting for her chosen.

I see the mother in you,
in your past
or in some yet
to be understood
future,
I see you
adoring and
I see you adored,
and now,
when I call your name
I want to see
day by day,
the woman
you will become
with me.

Mid-life woman
come to me now,
I see you more clearly
than all
the airbrushed
girls of the world.

I became a warrior
only to earn
your present
mature affection,
I bear my scars to you,
my eyes are lined
to smile with you
and I come to you
uncultivated
and unshaven
walking rough
and wild through rain
and wind and I pace
the mountain
all night
in my happy,
magnificence
at finding you.

Mid life woman,
in the dark of the night
I take you in my arms
and in that embracing
invisibility feel all of your
inner lives made touchable
and visible again.

Mid life woman
I have earned
my ability to adore you.

Mid life woman
you are not invisible to me.
Come to me now
and let me kiss passionately
all the beautiful women
who have
ever lived in you.
My promise
is to you now
and all their future lives.

::: ::: ::: :::

God bless David Whyte, who knows how to speak to the heart of this woman. Yes, you have earned the ability to adore me.

 

 

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How to really, truly, honest-to-goodness, no bullshit, change your life.

I have been thinking about this post for months. After I wrote this post, a gentleman named “D” wondered how, exactly, do we change and go after the life we want, the life we feel we are destined for. Do we leap? How do we do it?

To answer him, I wanted to write a post called, “Live Your Life Like It’s a Movie.” That’s how this post started. Because we can learn a lot of from what characters do in movies to see how we can make changes in our own life. (Except Memento – don’t use that for anything to guide you life, k?).

 

What do movie characters do that can help us change our lives?

They make a decision to do something. They decide to act. Even when a character is pushed to the brink- they decide whether they will take action or die. They are always making decisions and taking action.

They only go back if they need some particular resource. In many cases the character needs something essential; they must go back or risk quitting or dying. In our case, we should only be going back if we need to heal something psychologically (a healed mind is a type of resource). Old emotional wounds and habit hold us back more than anything else.

They use what they have. Movie characters keep the plot moving by using what they have and going forward. They don’t wait for another master’s degree or until amazon delivers their AK-47. They look at the shovel and hammer they have and go with that.

But, these things are not sufficient to really make your life different.
As I found out when I tried to change my life a couple of weeks ago.

::: ::: ::: :::

Monday, January 25th, I had to make a decision about whether to give someone information to change their life or not. I had some info they needed, but I hadn’t talked to them in forever. We hadn’t always had the best relationship. But, I knew, deep down, they needed this info to get their life back on track.

I also knew that if I decided to tell them this news, I would have to be the biggest, most self-accepting, intuitively powerful, spiritually on-point version of myself I had ever been. I was going to have to change myself- in the form of being wholly myself- in the process of delivering this news.

So I freaked the fuck out for 4 days and did nothing.

Friday the 29th rolled around and I had to decide: do I do this or not?

I decided to do it.

But what ensued between the decision and hitting the send button was a bit of a circus.

I prayed heavily.
I sweat.
I checked my intuition about 75 times.
I imagined a little ritual for myself -walking through a portal as I hit the ‘send’ button.
I did deep, slow breathing.
I set the laptop down and walked away, and then picked it back up and paced some more.
I imagined my ‘bigger, more whole’ self pushing the send button.

I finally did it.
But you know why?
Because I had to pee. |truth|

Joanna Meriwether looking rather anxious and worried

|hi. i’m freaking out.|

What does it take to change your life? 

It takes four things:

1. Deciding action must be taken. [This can sometimes look like: getting sick of your own shit and/or being forced to take action, although we’re never really forced.]

We can sit in this stage for years. For a lifetime, really. In scientific speak, this is called the ‘planning’ stage of change. Whatever you want to call it, this is the place in the movie where the main character starts planning. They pull out the paper and the calculator or the guns and tanks or the birds offer to sew our heroine a dress.

2. Picking the action. We’re going to do something – yes! But what? Usually this is pretty easy to figure out. For me, it was to send the email. In movies it’s deciding which of the popular girls will die first, or that the main character needs to jump from way…up…there. In real life, it might be something big we decide to do (‘write that book’) or it may be small (‘one less cigarette today’) but we have to pick something- taking action is the only way to change your life.

3. Having a deadline you care about. Can’t say enough about this one. We can sit in planning mode for about….forever, unless we have a deadline we care about. For me, I had to pee. I could have gone pee and come back to my indecision. Luckily, I did not. I knew I needed to do something before I went wee. It was both a physiologically and emotionally compelling deadline. Wanna change? Get a deadline you’ll stick to.

4. Managing the fuck out of your anxiety. I would say that this is, by far, the most useful tool you can use in changing your life. When we attempt to change our life, even in the smallest of ways, we are doing something different. And ‘different’ makes your brain go ‘wait! wait! we might get killed doing this!’ You must have tools to calm your brain– either during or after what you chose to do- so that you can take action.

Of course, in the movies they don’t always show this part. Maybe somebody breathes deeply while they aim the gun. Nervous laughter is one outlet. Rarely do you see anyone saying, “Jesus, I am freaking out…but I’m doing it anyway,” and then doing the thing and having a nice, long relaxing massage afterwards. But that is exactly what you need.

One tool I will also offer is to say to yourself, “That was hard (or different), but I did it.”  Saying this immediately tells your brain|body that what you did was okay, and not to worry so much next time.

::: ::: ::: :::

So, what happened? I sent it, the person made a change, it’s good. And I also have the experience of how it felt to be a new version of myself.

And every day (almost) for the last 13 days, I have practiced being that version of myself for a bit. I practice until I get anxious, and then I go a little bit past the anxious mark, and then I stop. I’m pushing the boundary and changing my life- and managing the anxiety.

I believe that pop culture can offer us some really helpful, sacred tools. You get bonus points in this process for finding a hero you can emulate. Maybe someone from a movie.

Right now, my heroine is ‘Fran’ from Strictly Ballroom. She asked for what she wanted, she believed in herself, and she kept going even when everything seemed it was against her. I wanna be like Fran in my life right now.

And that is how I will change my life. One day, one action, one anxiety management tool at a time.

 

 

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Periods of growth

Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something outside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.

| Alice Walker, Living by the Word |

::: ::: ::: :::

Yesterday, after writing of my reckoning, I felt so low. I have been in the phase of growth described here for 10 days now, which is not long. But it does feel long, as the pressure is so great. I know I am opening, though. I felt that clearly last night. I am doing the internal, spiritual|emotional work that must be done. And I know I will see the light soon. In fact, I already am. I am glimpsing the next iteration of myself already- more healed, more aware, more true…and more lovely. Blessings for the unpleasantness of growth.

 

 

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My Fortieth Year :: The Reckoning

Last year, on February 14th, I turned 40. I had a wonderful celebration with friends from near and far and a lot of dancing. It was really beautiful and fucking fun. I spent the day of my birthday with a good friend and my family; there was adventure. And I wrote a manifesta for turning 40. Because I was so damn excited about it.

There have been many beautiful moments in this past year, for which I am grateful. But my excitement at the self-proclaimed ‘Year of the Snake’ was short sighted. The theme of this year has been frustration and despair and fear.

‘Year of the Snake’ was probably the most apt way to describe my year. Many layers were shed and the scales of illusion fell from my eyes.

::: ::: ::: :::

To start, I shed the layer of my humility. I am vain. I have lost more hair  this year due to my thyroid condition. Almost everyone says they don’t notice, but I do. I have felt sad and desperate as I watch hanks of hair wash down the drain. I have grieved and had to reconcile with myself, again and again, who I will be and how I will feel beautiful with less hair.

Progress on this front has been poor. I am vain. I miss my hair. I want more of it to grow back. I remind myself that most people can’t tell. But I cry when my head is cold as I go to bed at night. I keep hoping that the right combo of medication and nutrition will finally kick in and I’ll have my hair back.

I have learned about my own vanity and shed any idea that I am humble.

I have also shed the idea that I’m capable self-love all the time. I’ve gained weight as a result of the thyroid issue as well. Admittedly, not a lot for most people (whiiiine, skinny girl). But it has been enough to make me feel uncomfortable in my body. And I HATE this. I hate feeling that I cannot do what I wish with my body. I hate feeling uncomfortable as I undress during sex.

I don’t know that I’ve made much progress on this front, either, except that I’ve read a lot about fat shaming and see how it is at play in my own head. Is it ever fun to see what’s in our own heads, like this? The ways we are biased against ourselves? No, it sucks. In the last week, some of the weight has come off, and I have felt so grateful and relieved.

Finally, I had my psycho-spiritual ass handed to me last week. I was treated to a very sad and regretful look at how I hide from life in fear. When I am afraid I cannot get what I want, I run and hide- never facing my fear, never asking for what I want, and thereby never getting it. I am not always brave.

There are so many places in my life I have faced my fears and become stronger and made my life my own. But now I know there is another place that needs healing and empowerment. Recognizing this has made me weep and has also caused me to take a good look at my illusions about myself. I thought I was fearless, I thought I loved myself utterly, I thought I was healed. I was a fool.

birthday-candles

 

I’m learning from all of these experiences and working at healing them. I enjoy the hair I have – still purple! – and say prayers of gratitude to it and for it. I am working hard to maximize my medication and nutrition so more hair might grow.

I am also practicing accepting my body for what it is, right now, and enjoying it as much as I can. I am refusing to let my life be limited by my poor thoughts about my thighs.

Lastly, in small ways, each day for this past week, I have checked in with my broken heart. In actuality, I am healing quite quickly. That happens when you decide to feel everything as it happens and not store it away for another day. I am listening deeply to where Life suggests I should go in order to heal further and it is working.

::: ::: ::: :::

In many ways, these negative experiences are sensual experiences as well. There are certain feelings in body, mind, and soul when we live through fear, frustration, and despair. They are not the ‘fun’ things we think of when ‘sensuality’ gets defined. But they are just as true.

I was talking to a dear friend a few weeks ago about how shit this year has felt. She reminded me that in her 40th year she asked for a divorce. And then found her way back into a very wonderful marriage with the same dude. This gives me hope.

I plan to post on my 41st birthday as well. I think I will have smaller dreams, perhaps with less excitement. But I will be standing in a place where I see myself more clearly. As I write this, I realize what a gift that is.

Yes, I would rather have gone through (and be going through) all this pain and know myself and my life more deeply, than to have remained at a more superficial level.

In ways I never expected, then, this year has been very good, indeed.

 

 

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