Author Archive | Joanna M.

I am clearing a space.

I am clearing a space
here, where the trees stand back.
I am making a circle so open
the moon will fall in love
and stroke these grasses with her silver.
I am setting stones in all four directions,
stones that have called my name
from mountaintops and riverbeds, canyons and mesas.
Here I will stand with my hands empty,
mind gaping under the moon.
I know there is another way to live.

| Morgan Farley |

 

Photo by Beat Schuler on Unsplash

 

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transitions

It’s late, but I want to get this out before it magically turns to September.

I’ve been going through some big transitions this summer.

I moved. Into a house I really, really love. It’s every house I’ve ever wanted to live in, plus all the best parts of houses I have lived in. It has straight walls (which my Victorian did not!), central heating and air like in the West Coast, a loft (a loft!), fireplaces with brick and roughhewn mantles, and two baths, and a giant master bedroom. I am just in love with all of it. And I’ve wanted to be in love with a house so much- it all feels like exactly the right thing. It took a lot to get us here (including at least 3 really amazing meltdowns by me), but I am really enjoying the process of making different spaces and figuring out new systems and connecting my family in new ways in this house. The house is associated with the card of the High Priestess in the tarot. It’s a card of magic and family and sovereignty – all of which I feel keenly here. And the light! And the trees! I could go on, but I won’t bore you. I love my house and getting here has been a huge transition. But we’re on the other side and it’s so good.

I’ve healed and let go. One thing I am really learning and integrating is creating and holding boundaries- who and what will be in my life and to what extent? I am answering that in ways that make me happy. And the more I do it, the more confident I become and the better I feel. I think it’s an act of huge self love to say no to something that isn’t right for you- and that includes people, even ones who are your family, even ones who love you. I feel like I’m slashing tendrils of energy-suckers right off my soul. I feel better than I have in a long time.

I have entered a new realm of sensuality. One thing I came to understand this summer is what it means to let go completely into submission with a partner. I used to hate the phrase and idea of ‘being used’ as a woman, but now I understand it differently. ‘Use me’ – for me – means that I open myself as a tool for the pleasure of another, precisely and only because being with them brings me in touch with my deepest desires and pleasures. Any way he touched me would be satisfying, so I offered myself to him in ways that do the same for him; he was my pleasure, so I let him choose his own pleasure from me. Perhaps it isn’t ‘use’ but ‘fulfillment’- “let me fulfill you, partner, in any way you wish, because my desire for you is so deep and complete.” Yes, I think that comes closer to the truth. And how beautiful this truth is, how incredibly vulnerable and receptive and satisfying.

I’m learning to be a better ally in the fight against ‘-isms.’ One thing I have been learning lately, and I will talk about this more later, is that I needed to shut up and listen in order to be a better ally. It is better to be quiet than to open my mouth and fuck up. Listening also means I am not another white person consuming bodies of color. (I discontinued a budding conversation with a writer I admired very much because I was deeply afraid of doing just that- being another white woman who consumes black, male bodies. To be an ally, first you have to get off of the Becky train. Then you listen.) So I have been watching and learning. I have changed my language and watched myself think before I speak to try and catch as many of the ‘-isms’ I perpetuate as I can. I am beginning to speak up about such things- to help with emotional labor and not ask the marginalized to tell me how to do this job. So…listening and learning to do this imperfectly. It’s another step on the journey which I am committed to for as long as live.

Learning the hard lesson of surrender. Getting into our house was a bit of a paperwork nightmare. We also had to move several times (temporary housing!) and it ruined me a bit. There came a time when I had to just say, “this is how it’s going to go and I can either go or get dragged.” It brought me back to Taoist philosophy, honestly. When I left Christianity, Taoism was the most stripped down religion I could find. And it nourished me deeply. In Taoism, one follows ‘the tao’ or ‘the way’ -which is the energy of life. I had to learn to let go and follow ‘the way’ – because that was all there was to do in many moments this summer. I’m remembering that lesson and integrating it these past few weeks.

Figuring out what the fuck to do with this site. I pondered about this site a lot this summer. What had I created and used it for? Was that useful, valuable, serving? What was the foundation of this blog? Was that still true? And what I found out- and what I also decided- is that this site is a place for me to talk about and work through what brings me alive. My tagline is “Honest. Erotic. Rebellious. With God.” but it probably should have been, “Honest. Sensual. Rebellious…” because the sensual is what brings us alive in all realms of life. I think this means I’ll be posting more regularly, but also only when it’s something that sparks me to aliveness.

Every astrological everything says things are going to shift this next month. Into something easier, but also strangely wonderful. I hope so, because I feel like I’m already there. I’ve transitioned into someone new these past two months- someone I know better, who has more facets (including negative ones), but who also loves and accepts herself more than ever before. I’m better and more mature. And I’m ready to transition into what comes next here. Stay tuned, fellow travelers.

Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Music Mapping

Ya’ll- it has been more than a month since I last posted. Wow.

Actually not so much wow. Life has been a roller coaster lately, but in the best way. I haven’t had time to post. I haven’t had thoughts useful enough to post. And, in all honesty, what this space means to me, and does for me, is changing. I’m not sure where we’re heading yet.

But tonight I feel so grand.

Two days ago, I realized I hadn’t made myself a playlist in a year. Not that I hadn’t picked up some new tunes, but I hadn’t made a playlist of where I was at or what I was feeling in the last year. It kind of makes sense- this last year was rough, and I didn’t want certain people up in my energy (and my energy is my music), so the lack of playlists was a very good reflection of where I was at.

But it’s time to share again.

This post isn’t so much a playlist as it is a map of where I’ve been in the last few months, but via music. The little clusters of songs are like dots on the map of my life- places I’ve stopped as I’ve grown in the last few months.

::: ::: :::

Mother’s Day and Marriage

People, my marriage is awesome. My partner and I are doing fab; just last night he was sweeping the dining room as we were talking and he said, “You are so perfect for me.” I love our love. These songs are what I’ve been humming since Mother’s Day.

Kat Dahlia | I Think I’m in Love
Falling in love with my husband all over again.

Crazy Town | Butterfly
I’m feeling so free and loved lately.

Depeche Mode | Home
A forever fave describing our love.

The White Stripes | Ball and Biscuit
He sent it to me from England. I thanked him when he got home.

 

New Stuff

New music that’s rockin’ my hips, my mind, my soul.

alt-j | In Cold Blood
Their latest. I love it. Still contemplating seeing them when they hit town.

Bed of Liars | Violence
I just dig this one. Loud. Very loud.

Coldplay | Strawberry Swing
Actually, old music. But it’s going to be the first song in my “New House” ritual.

 

The Summer of 7th Grade

No clue why, but I have been reminiscing about the music from the summer of 7th grade. 1988. Probably because I’m packing singles tapes (tapes!) that have travelled from the West Coast and another dimension.

Breathe | Hands to Heaven
Oh, god. This song. Full of my favorite emotion, bittersweetness.

Jon Secada | Just Another Day
I bought his CD as one of my BMG “Buy 10 for 1 penny” offer (along with Montell Jordan).

Richard Marx | Don’t Mean Nothing / Hold On to the Nights / Right Here Waiting
Dedicated to the three boys I desperately wanted to date in 7th grade.

Peter Cetera | Next Time I Fall
When Amy Grant went secular it meant we all could. I used that later when I left the church.

 

I’ll leave you with this. A seasonal favorite.

The Sundays | Summertime
We saw them on their last tour. They named their daughter Billie. I will always love them. And you will always find me inside this song in the summer.

 

 

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my prayers.

I’m taking a class on reclaiming the Seven Deadly Sins. It’s fantastic. I have grown in new ways and really, deeply accepted some pieces of myself. I feel stronger.

One of the things the teacher asked us to do is name our prayers. That which we seek as a means of keeping our balance as we grow. Our prayers are our throughline. The thread that holds us together as we grow in a zigzag way.

I pray to this:

my journal of words and images

watering my plants (a new, simple, exquisite way I nourish myself)

facing my beloved, chest on chest, with hugs or kisses (or both!)

deep kisses with soft lips

curling up on down comforters

popcorn + rootbeer on Saturday nights

tequila

breathing into the orgasm and feeling it explode my whole body like a mandala

boot cut jeans

black leather boots. steel-toed.

rubbing my children’s legs as they fall asleep

English tea.

buying books. real, paper ones. reading them.

a dark wood with cedar trees and ferns

comfy chairs to curl up in.

magical things.

William Stafford’s words.

the feel of a good pen.

abstract art. art the size of whole rooms. 

music. 

lighting the candles for meditation + solstice.

listening to their stories + offering medicine.

laughter.

dancing.

Seattle. green moss. pine trees. mountains. streams. ferns. the smell of cedar.

my bed.

Kripalu.

making things with my hands. wood working.

alone time. alone time. alone time. 

friends who hold me up. miracles.

the feel of writing. 
the feel of writing.
the feel of writing. 

 

“Prayer is what keeps us keeping on.
Prayer is where we allow for more.
Prayer is connected to what we are proud of,
what we covet, and our passion.”

– Renee Magnusson

 

 

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Tequila on Thursday Morning

Last Thursday, May 18th, I sat at my desk at 10 am and took two shots of tequila.*
One for Chris Cornell’s death.
And one for his life.

The life that came through that amazing voice.

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

I haven’t said anything yet, because my grief is not over. Barely begun, honestly. The 3-day emotional cycle of social media is not enough for this death, for me.

Chris Cornell was someone I chose to listen to, a few years after the biggest rush of grunge. I bought Temple of the Dog as one of my 10 CD selections with BMG (only a penny, do you remember that?). It wasn’t a case of being caught up in the music of my generation, it felt more intentional than that. It was an adult purchase, inside of my budding adult sense of myself.

He was important because of his talent, because of his emotions and how much he loved Andrew Wood, because of how his beautiful voice conveyed all of it. But also, for me, because his voice and music fed the seeds of my self.

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

Because I am from Seattle, I have a lot of friends back there, and with Chris Cornell being a son of that city, there were lots of memories.

A former roommate talked about taking a Chem class with Soundgarden’s bassist, Hiro Yamamoto at Western Washington University (my alma mater. I remember when he came back from class to tell us what had happened, how it had been discovered. Great story, not gonna tell you; it’s his business).

Another friend, who I knew had worked for the King County Coroner’s office (but didn’t put two and two together until she shared), talked about being part of the team that catalogued and packed up Layne Stayley’s remains when he was found in 2002 (15 years ago, my god). Another voice that can never be duplicated, lost to drugs. (“So many sharps,” my friend said, “so many.”)

And people who had served Chris Cornell around town. Or seen him in the early years. There was a comedy show in Seattle in the 1990s called “Almost Live” where Billy Nye got his start. Soundgarden was part of “The Lame List” piece once. (See also: ‘High Five-n’ White Guys’ and ‘Chihuly and Jones’ – INFJ’s have a terrible sense of humor.)

Who had not seen him in concert once or twelve times? When Lollapalooza was still a mud fest in what was the backwater of Enumclaw, WA. (For a joke we call it ‘Enum-scratch.’) I listened to each song as people posted their favorites and felt my own connections. I read some reports and some posts (this one is my favorite) about what his music meant. And I thought about why I had included him as one of the first members of the ‘Shiva’ board on Pinterest (which seems a ridiculous thing to say as a Gen-Xer: Pinterest). He embodied the full sense of masculinity to me. He was not afraid of himself. He had his demons, to be sure. But he explored so much of life, of himself- and made beauty from it. I deeply admire that.

I had last seen him when he came to Providence on his solo tour. He was on stage simply to have a good time with music. The kid who sat next to me was not born before 1996, and I took umbrage with his youth, but not with his taste in music. Chris Cornell as a god of both our youths. And there he was, taking requests, also denying requests, and just messing with music until it sounded good to him. He left the stage as a warped chord echoed so loud it hurt. It made your head buzz in the way you knew you would not be able to speak in a normal tone of voice until the next morning.

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

But now, at 42 and with a master’s degree in mental health, one thing in particular stays with me: mid-life masculine depression. Yes, Chris Cornell dealt with depression and anxiety either due to or related to his drug use. But so many men deal with undiagnosed depression at this age. At the very least, it deadens them and kills their relationships, and sometimes their work.

I work with many women whose male partners suffer from depression (which has different symptoms than female depression). Male-specific symptoms of depression include physical ailments, anger, and reckless behavior. Men tend to turn their depression outwards, while women turn it inwards. And, especially for men, treating depression makes them feel inadequate. So they don’t treat it…and their relationships falter or they lose their job…and they feel inadequate so they don’t treat… You see where this goes.

There are a variety of reasons that depression happens in men. We all have inside of us the capacity to have every mental health disorder there is in the book. But the silence of it is what makes it so dangerous for men. As my friend, Jenifer said, “Suicide was stalking him (Chris Cornell) and we couldn’t help. How could we have known suicide was stalking him?” Only if he told us.

And the same is true for those around you. If you suspect you are (or your partner is) depressed, please seek help.There are lots of treatment options, many of which are not pharmaceutical (if that bothers you).

Male mid-life depression is a thing.
Male depression is a thing.
And you can have treatment and support.

The music of your life is deeply valuable to someone. Many more ‘someones’ than you suspect, probably. Your fans want you to live, just as we wish Chris Cornell could have.

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

I think there is more to say about Chris Cornell’s death, but it’s not yet formed. I’ll share it when the time is right. And if you’re mourning- maybe it’s finally time for that trip to Seattle. Here’s my map. Visit ‘A Sound Garden,’ will ya?

Blessed be, Chris Cornell. Rest in peace.

 

*I’m not given to drinking much. I like a little wine sometimes, and some champagne on New Year’s Day. But Thursday morning I needed the burning gold of tequila running down my throat in the same way the hot tears ran down my cheeks.

 

 

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