New England [from Paris]

The day was bright and hot, but not humid. The sky was blue, with lots of white clouds above us. My feet were walking on gray cobbles, one step at a time. I had a backpack full of food and maps on my back. I walked slowly, tired and hungry. I looked up ahead and saw my husband and children and it occurred to me, “Normally, right now, I would be angry that we weren’t where we were supposed to be, that it’s hot and I’m hot, that we haven’t found a place to eat yet. But I’m not.”

It was a strange revelation to have in a cemetery. But there I was, in the middle of the Pere LaChaise cemetery in Paris, and I recognized that I was fully in the moment. I wasn’t thinking about what came next or what had happened a few minutes (or years) ago. I wasn’t angry because we weren’t ‘there’ yet. I wasn’t upset because we’d been trudging uphill for what seemed like hours. I was just walking, noticing what was around me, noticing the sky, noticing the backpack. My mind was calm.

This is one of the gifts I found when I went on vacation in Paris. My mind finally let go of its daily chatter. I found that once I noticed this was happening, I can make it happen whenever I wish. Because, of course I can.

I can’t quite describe how freeing this has felt in the couple of weeks since I’ve returned home. I don’t play scenarios over and over in my head. I don’t try to overly use my intuition. I don’t try to ‘feel into’ people, places, or experiences. I am just living and being and my head is a lot less busy. And it feels great. I watch TV now and read more books (and less social media). I go to bed on time, which I have struggled with for years. It has really been an amazing shift. I want to hold on to this.

I sometimes feel a little disoriented for not thinking and futzing around in my head so much. But I get over it. And it’s not fully integrated yet, so there are still moments when I catch myself at the old habits of mind. But I know how to let myself out now. I was my own jailer; now I know how to set myself free.

One thing I realized, having let go and calmed down in these last two weeks is how much I was at the mercy of my own emotions. I thought and felt deeply – still do – and I got dragged all over by those thoughts and feelings. And that happens less often now. I am also more aware of when it does happen and I can pull myself off the hamster wheel as needed. I still feel deeply, but now it doesn’t pull me all over, feeling by feeling, low and high. I realize how busy and crazy it made me feel; I prefer this peace.

The other gift of Paris was as wonderful as peace, it was beauty. In Paris there were far fewer ads for beauty products for women. In America women are bombarded with magazines, TV ads, bus posters, and billboards about the ways in which they are deficient and should improve themselves (to a beauty standard no woman can achieve). There are aisles and aisles of beauty products in stores the country over for women to improve how they look. These things do not exist in Paris. And I came to understand something really important: I am the only one who can define my beauty.

Is it nice when someone says I’m beautiful? Of course. It’s always lovely when someone says they find you meet their standards of beauty. But me finding myself beautiful is much more important and valuable. I started taking selfies with no make-up on. I take selfies when I feel good, generally. But to feel good without make-up on was weird. It challenged the part of me that feels I must live up to the impossible standards; it challenged the part of me that knows I gain something in this world from meeting a lot of those standards. I get resources – respect, patience, a discount from the manager – that others don’t get due to how they look because I meet the standards of conventional beauty in this country. It’s not fair or right, but it happens, and it was challenging to my sense of self to recognize that as I looked at how my ‘unmade’ face – my naked face – did not meet those standards. My naked face is beautiful, but it won’t get me as many resources as my ‘made up’ face does.

Finally, I also learned that I don’t even have to ask the beauty question if I don’t want to. Am I beautiful? Who cares?┬áThere are so many things that are more important than beauty: kindness, authenticity, compassion to name a few. I believe that our beloved will find us beautiful no matter what, so what does beauty matter? I think maybe it doesn’t.

 

Naked faced me.

In the last two weeks, since being home, I’ve also come to realize that I want to experiment with being done here. I have a few things left to say, but I am beginning to think that this space has served its purpose. It was a place for me to make art from my pain and frustration, which I did. It was a place for me to tell my truth, which I have done.

I’ve been thinking about the tagline here, recently. “Honest. Erotic. Rebellious. With god.” At the time I started this blog, being sensual and sexual felt like the furthest thing from being spiritual. My Protestant upbringing assured those two energies would be divided in my mind and body for a long time. But I have worked and found the place where they are both true. That’s part of me now. And, truth be told, what is ‘rebellious’ to a middle class, white lady is not exactly ‘rebellious’ to the rest of the world (we all have our stories to break free from, but mine is like a lot of other white, Protestant ladies, so it’s not very rebellious at all). If anything, this has always been a place for me to share my thoughts and tell what I see as truth, but I have no real claim to any capital-T truth, so I’m not sure I have much else of value to share.

The other thing I’ve begun to wonder about is that I really put my heart on the page here and maybe my heart it worth more than that. Maybe my heart is for those who love me enough to get over their own fears and seek connection with me. Maybe my heart is for those whom I deem worthy. And maybe that’s why it’s time to play with being done here. We shall see…

Big love from the trail,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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