Archive | March, 2017

On grief.

A few months back, I was asked to help a friend create a ceremony to bring her grief ‘home.’ (For those of you who know her, I received permission to share her story.) Her mother had passed in the last few weeks, but in a different part of the country. Her life was here now, in Rhode Island, and she needed a way to bring that grief home, she told me.

I have performed very few memorial services. Usually when someone dies, we seek the familiar, so the old church, whatever it may be, is where we turn. But this was not a memorial service, per se. It was not a way to remember a person, or commune in shared grief, or to connect as a tool to banish grief, but a way to bring grief home, to live with it- to bring it to those who love my friend, so that they could know her better and support her. And that is such a different perspective than most of us take on grief.

Grief is a tricky thing. We have those models, the Stages of Grief, but very few things work as the model suggests, most definitely grief (and if you’ve ever had an amazing design idea at IKEA and tried to make it work at home, you know of what I speak). Grief is a lonely walk, so often, because we see the person, the life, the choices, so differently from anyone else. And this doesn’t only apply to the death of people- it is equally true for the death of relationships, jobs, the ways we see ourselves. Grief, in a counterintuitive way, sprouts anew each time, different flowers from the same root.

For me, grief has been best described by symbols.

There is the initial grief that is like an Egyptian pyramid. A sacred, dark place, vast. It is beautiful- full of gold, memories, resources, things we can actually touch and see and smell. Even when it is cold, the darkness of the passageways of grief has a weight that I welcome. I have walked in the tunnels, admiring all of it, touching the walls, running the fabric of memory through my fingers, even as I knew that it was dead. The warmth of the gold was only because I stood near it, only because my fire gave it light. All of it was dead, even if it was so beautiful that I would be happy to live there forever on some days.

When I think of grief I am reminded that it is not just for dead things that we grieve. It is for what is lost- even if that job, that person, that idea lives on. The connection is lost or radically changed and we grieve for that. Sometimes we cannot let go, even though we know we must. The spiritual practice of grief is opening our grip, by tiny degrees, until our hand is free to move again. We cry and rage and gnash, but eventually, we must let go, or we will die, too. (But also, take your time. That’s the only way to do it.)

As I have accepted the death of things, the way they would never return to ‘normal,’ grief has been a garden of the dead, dead flowers and trellis’ and sculpted hedgerows. Some days the wind blows cold, and others the sun shines. But everything is obviously dead here. And I walk along, letting my hand touch the fragile leaves, watching the memories waft away in the wind, pieces crumbling simply with my walking by them. Here are all my delights and aliveness and growth, returning to the Earth. It is falling apart, and I can do nothing about it, because should I plant again, it will never grow the same. I surrender and accept.

All along the path, grief has been a whack-a-mole. So often I would jump up and try to whack it back into something (whack it ‘away,’ whack it into a particular shape, whack it just to whack it). But then, I slump beside the machine and refuse to play. Let grief do what it will, I will wait for the time to run out, and then decide what do to next.

I have wondered if The Stages of Grief are something that happens inside each of these places. Inside the beautiful pyramid of memory and desire, we bounce between denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Inside the dead garden, we do the same. Perhaps the whack-a-mole is simply these five things repeating themselves until our lessons are learned.

 

 

There is no answer, of course, because grief is a similar::unique path for each person, each time they encounter it.

Grief is one of the most difficult human emotions, I think. It is so painful. It involves so much of us- not just body, mind, spirit as we are now, but all of those things and the depths of our history to the present moment as well. Grief cleans us out.

Perhaps that is the best metaphor, grief cleans us out. There are several rooms in the house of my heart that have been invaded by grief (and sometimes I have welcomed it, but not usually). And it is only through the process of grief that I have had to clean out those rooms. But by cleaning them out, leaving what’s most important (memories, lessons, boundaries), have I been able to move on, to leave the space and energy for new things to come along- sometimes new things in the same room, sometimes new rooms all together.

Grief changes us. That is really all I can say. And that to engage with it is an act of bravery. To bring our grief home is one of the deepest forms of courage of the heart.

 

 

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Things That Are Currently Fascinating Me

The shit weather of 2017 (and beyond).

Dudes, I have lived in New England for 16 years this year. Longer than I have lived anywhere. And for the first 12 years the year-round weather was all the stereotypes you here and postcards you see. Hot, humid Summers, beautiful Indian Autumns with foliage I couldn’t believe (really), Winters full of snow and sun and snowpiledhigh snow, and Springs that were muddy and blustery.

But the last four years, and especially the last two- they have been very different. People here say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes. It’ll change!” <har har har> But the fact is, what we are seeing and experiencing isn’t just New England weather schizophrenia; it’s global warming.

The Canada geese have only left my little state once in the last four Autumns. Their pituitary gland must register that there have been 43 consecutive days of cold (below 37 degrees F, I think) before their brain tells them to start flying South. We haven’t had enough cold days in a row, for three years, for their brain to do its thing.

We have ruined the Earth. We have changed the atmosphere and the weather patterns (and so much depends on weather; see also- Somalian famine) irrevocably. Humans are a blight on the Earth, and many days, I hope she rids her system of us.

 

Algorithms and social media.

I use Facebook and Pinterest and someday will be on Instagram, but what’s truly interesting to me is how those things are connected, and how they try to connect us.

I have genuine stalkers on both of my websites- they also hang out on FB and Pinterest- and I’m figuring out because they are the people who ‘visit’ me the most, a lot of their stuff is what shows up in my feed. The software algorithm notices who is ‘watching’ and ‘visiting’ me the most on these sites. It thinks that because those folks are so interested, whatever they are interested in will also interest me (wrong assumption, but understandable software design).

I got a guy, who was an acquaintance a long time ago, and who visits all my sites, FB, and Pinterest- who likes watches. They are a favorite and fantasy item for him. He likes a lot of replica things, but he’d love to have a real, luxury-level watch. A few days after I put up my affairs video, the ads on YouTube were, in all seriousness, wall-to-wall Rolex. It does not take a genius to figure out who was watching my video enough times to produce that ad content.

And that’s true all over the place.  There is someone on both FB and Pinterest who has the shittiest taste in beer, and so I get ads for Michelob. (To each their own, but I’m a milk stout kinda gal and you’ve gotta be more interesting than ‘Michelob’ to hang with me. I’m ‘beerist,’ sue me.)

I have four FB friends from MSW School and one of them appears to get getting ready to do their PhD in Social Work, because I get ads for just that in my FB feed. It ain’t for me- I sure as fuck am not getting my PhD in Social Work. But when she clicks on something I’ve posted, FB wonders if I might like that, too.

And I got one lady who, having been unable to satisfy her stalking tendencies by just looking at my stuff, now stalks all my friends on FB. How do I know? The same video for a baby store run by men came up on three of my friends’ FB feeds on the same night. That’s not coincidence; that’s an algorithm doing it’s thing.

There are three people on my FB friends list who attended Washington Statue University (WSU- we call it, ‘wah-zoo’) and the other day on Pinterest I got a pin for WSU stuff. Just one, but it narrows down the field for who was visiting my Pinterest boards.

And I’m seriously fascinated by it all. The algorithm is software and software is simply rules for how, when, where, and with whom the data is shifted around and shared with other people (with a few ‘if/then’ scenarios thrown in). So, if you even care to follow the patterns (which I do), you can sort of find out the rules and then play with them.

 

 

Spam and data collection.

This is also related to algorithms, but slightly different. On my websites I get spam comments- apparent junk comments that just show up in my Comments folder for review. But, sometimes there is actual data in them. Parts of people’s email conversations. Someone who was visiting this site a month or so back had been watching “Moonlight” recently, because the spam comments were filled with that name and words about it (as if from reviews- it could have been any one of 15-20 people in my feed who were talking about it on FB, but it’s weird that actual reviews showed up, you know?). Sometimes it’s lists of shoes someone was looking at on other websites- like, seriously, links to all manner of shoes on a particular website. I got somebody in India who works with or for a metals company regularly reading my stuff.

And it fascinates me how the software is only operating by written rules, and yet is has this unintended consequence of leaving bits of data on the websites we visit. Now, I only notice this stuff because I watch patterns and I’m curious. (And because I get a low number of comments- 100s versus 1000s- that I can poke around in and wonder about.)

Every spam comment also comes with an IP address. IP addresses are sometimes fixed and sometimes random. People who stop by repeatedly are easier to see because their IP addresses are often the same over time (not always, but mostly).

For instance, back in November, I got some weird spam about Mercedes SUVs and baby seats. I didn’t even know Mercedes made baby seats- turns out they do.  And I was just curious about that, so I searched on the IP address within my comments. Turns out, that IP address had visited me before- in June of 2016. And the comments content was all about how get off The Pill and which sex positions were best for making a baby. So, congratulations MercedesMom- you got your wish!

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

As you can see, this stuff genuinely fascinates me. Certainly it’s because of the software and how it works, and doesn’t- what’s intended and what’s not. And what it says for our seeming ‘security’ online.

It also fascinates me because looking at these things, with some knowledge of what they are, is the process of uncovering the patterns. Software produces patterns- that’s what it is designed to do in most cases. And I love finding patterns. Patterns can show you where things are going- they can help you navigate the world more efficiently. Not always, but sometimes.

I’m fascinated with the algorithms because they are an inorganic attempt to create the interconnectedness of life. We are all connected. In some way or other, I am connected to each person on this planet, if only because I and they have human bodies. But we are all connected, nonetheless. And algorithms used in social media are human attempts to re-create that connection. They are attempts to create Indra’s Net in the best way we currently know of. Human, imperfect, also interesting.

So, yes, this is a ‘grab bag’ of a post. But it’s what I’m thinking about lately. The things we each find fascinating in this life are so different, but that’s also the fun.

 

 

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Spring Equinox

Oh, a little late, but here we are. Today (tonight) is the Spring Equinox- the time when day and night are equal. It is the balancing of energies. Although, since we are headed into Spring, it is also time where we tend towards the light and leave behind the negative; that which no longer serves us and our growth.

I think Elizabeth Peru said it quite well today,

“Over the past week we have undergone a complete inner transformation and for many, the next 24 hours will see revelations come flooding in. Your rewards are imminent. The Equinox energy has been building slowly and intensely over the past few weeks. The next 24 hours provide a great release and a shift, helping us to balance. Are you feeling that you are on the precipice of new beginnings and ready for a fresh start?”

Yes, Elizabeth, I am already well on my way to a fresh start, having let go of a great many things these past few days. This is exactly the energy of the equinox- to let go, balance, and spring forward into what’s next and what’s on our path.

Like many of you, Spring makes me think of new growth, of breaking through the hard ground and lifting myself up towards the sun- the freedom + play + warmth of Spring and Summer.

Sometimes in this space I feel like a fragile crocus- the first to press its purple-stained petals above the cold earth. Sometimes I feel like a hardy daffodil- full of wild, yellow energy and warmth. Do you feel ready for Spring?

That feeling of newness, of rebirth, is an energy within ourselves that I think is worth following. What does that energy feel like for you? Where do you feel it in your body? Where does it want to take you?

Often, my Spring energy would like to run me to the woods to be near bubbling streams, the dead branches browning again, and the tiny green leaves intermittently popping up everywhere- little promises of what’s to come. To sit with the cold of the shadows while the sun warms my face.

It’s okay to run a little wild in the Spring!

 

I also like to check in with myself at the equinoxes and solstices just to touch base with the Earth- she knows so much more than we do. She reminds us that we are animals, too- part of a wild system. And the turnings of the quarters of the year are a great time to sit down, check in with self and systems, and decide where to go next.

One of the reasons I even believe in this shit (and astrology) is that we know light and vibration have an impact on humans. In one of his books, Robert Fulghum (the “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindegarten” guy) was asked to find a note to hum that made his head vibrate slightly. [Yes, you should try it. Alone.] Whatever note you ‘buzz’ to is your personal vibrational note. And the notes are slightly different for everyone.

The interesting thing is that we also know all the planets also have notes that they ‘buzz’ or vibrate at.

And if you’ve ever been up against a tower o’ speakers at a concert, you know what it feels like when the vibration either matches you or doesn’t- each effects you. So why wouldn’t the vibrations of the planets also effect us? Even if they are low and slow, they still send out vibrations. And although our brain and ears may not feel immediately effected by them…it doesn’t mean we aren’t.

[On a related note: this is also why I believe in psychics and magic. There are so many things we don’t know- so many vibrations we miss simply because we’re human…unless we have a gift or connection. I also went to seminary with a lot of legit psychics; they read vibes no one else can hear.]

So, on this equinox, dare to let go of what’s dragging you down. Let the energy of the sun and moon balancing help you release anything that keeps you unbalanced. There is support for any internal (and external) work you do around this during the next 24 hours.

Take care fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Full Moon in Virgo + Winning the Lottery

Hello! Oh, I missed the moon again. I gotta get back in that groove. Anyways…here is the quick version of what’s happening with the moon this past Sunday.

If you found some truth during the dark moon of Feb 25-27, that truth should have made itself clear in the past week leading up to Sunday’s full moon. It may have been about love and relationships (Venus is also in retrograde, which means your love/relationship truths and personal BS will also be coming up) or just connecting to others.

The full moon on Sunday, March 12 was about fully recognizing or committing or accepting that same truth from the new (dark) moon in February. Mystic Mamma says this moon is about a woman becoming free (can I get an ‘amen’!?), letting go of what no longer works and becoming more of her true self. I imagine that is the way good relationships really find you- by being unapologetically yourself (and fuck ’em if they don’t like it. someone else will).

In general with this moon we are letting what needs to pass away dissolve itself, and allowing what needs to be created to find seed in our psyche and hearts. Life is a journey, though, so maybe the truth was a bit hard to grasp or seemed to get fixed and then the truth bumped up again. That’s how life goes, what can I say?

In any case, this full moon is also about cleaning that crap up (letting go, telling the truth, starting something new, whatever it may be) and moving on. Be brave- take a step towards what you know is true, even if it sucks, even if it hurts. Because moving towards the pain of ‘right’ is better than being stuck in the ‘meh’ of habitual.

And that’s all I got about that.

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

Dudes, I have not picked a song for this year yet. Although I think one might be picking me. We’ll see about that.

In the mean time, some songs are piquing my attention.

 

| HeavyDirtySoul | by Twenty-one Pilots

I cannot save your soul (unless you ask); you gotta do that yourself.

 

| Believer | by Imagine Dragons

Pain is a great teacher.

 

| Human | by Rag’n’Bone Man

You can’t blame one person for every failing. We all hold responsibility.

 

| Blame | by Bastille

‘This is my body and soul here.’

[There’s a theme with these songs, I know…I know.]

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

Lastly, dudes, I won the lottery. I’m a gal whose love languages are time and touch. (And words, because words touch me invisibly and they take time to create.) Last night my beloved and I wrapped ourselves around each other like infinity symbols, sliding along each other, over and over, and fell asleep curled together. Today we woke up to a snow storm, still entangled, and sleeping late (which is a rarity with kids).

This, to me, is winning the lottery. His time and his touch. And so much of it. Money makes life easier in some ways, but experiences are what keep our hearts alive. Give me enough money to have these experiences; I want no more than that. And then give me all of the experiences I can hold, all of them that I can see, smell, touch, taste, hear, and live.

The older I get, the more I know how precious these things are. I want no extra gold. I only want to be held in warm arms and loved.

 

 

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Still…

Well, hello stranger. I missed the solar eclipse and new moon in Pisces on Feb 26th. Quick recap: chaotic energy. But today I finished my work so I’m giving myself the gift of a quick post here. I’ve got so many things rattling in my head right now…I will write them to you eventually.

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

Still by Alanis Morissette

I am the harm that you inflict
I am your brilliance and frustration
I’m the nuclear bombs if they ‘re to hit
I am your immaturity and your indignance

I am your misfits and your praises
I am your doubt and your conviction
I am your charity and your rape
I am your grasping and expectation

I see you averting your glances
I see you cheering on the war
I see you ignoring your children

And I love you still
And I love you still

I am your joy and your regret
I am your fury and your elation
I am your yearning and your sweat
I am your faithless and your religion

I see you altering history
I see you abusing the land
I see you and your selective amnesia

And I love you still
And I love you still

I am your tragedy and your fortune
I am your crisis and delight
I am your profits and your prophets
I am your art I am your bytes

I am your death and your decisions
I am your passion and your plights
I am your sickness and convalescence
I am your weapons and your light

I see you holding your grudges
I see you gunning them down
I see you silencing your sisters

And I love you still
And I love you still

I see you lie to your country
I see you forcing them out
I see you blaming each other

And I love you still
And I love you still

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

I was on the bike last weekend and my iPod oracle decided to play this. I hadn’t heard it in a year or more and I played it three times through. It reminded me of many things, but mostly the profound nature of love- it’s breadth and depth.

Love. I’m learning a lot about love right now. My beloved and I celebrated the 21st anniversary of our first date in early March. It was very cool to think about how strong and lucky we are to have had so many good years together.

We’ve loved each other in many different ways.

We love amidst the hurt we cause each other, we love amidst the healing. We love in the parts of ourselves it takes patience (perhaps years of patience) to show each other. We love in the spontaneous connections of joy when thing are easy. There is a reason we have had three marriages in our 21 years together- love.

In other places, I am learning about love that is unpleasant, tough, defiant, strong like a boot kicking your ass. There is patience here, too. I am learning to love and respect myself more each day. Learning to dig out the less-than-loving parts of myself as I confront more of my own racism and sexism (got called out about rape culture- felt like an asshole. Lived through it, learned, and won’t repeat the mistake again!).

This song reminded me of what love is. So many things I cannot even describe or comprehend. So many things that are unexpected or beyond my understanding. Love surrounds the demons of life, too.

I’ve nothing more to say or share at the moment (quick post, I said!). It’s just what I’ve been pondering lately on the long walk home.

Big love, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

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