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Lessons in Love + Desire

Or, what I learned from this last Mercury in Retrograde. (If you want some good info on Mercury in Retrograde, please check this post from The Tarot Lady. Her tarot and astrology info is informative, funny, and practical.)

Over the years, and over the course of many relationships, I have come to believe that the heart is a house with many rooms. For me, there is a floor for friendships, another for family, and, of course, an entire floor (or maybe a wing) for romantic relationships. The first room on that floor belongs to a blonde name Mark who I fell for in 6th grade. I felt so giggly and silly and could barely do anything but smile when I saw him in class. We moved to a new city at Christmas that year, so I don’t know what became of him. But he was my first real crush.

There are probably 8 or 10 more rooms on the romantic floor. Wait, let me count…it’s 16. Damn. Sixteen rooms between my first crush and the room where I hold the relationship with my husband. Not all of those other rooms were relationships, but they all helped me learn something about being in romantic relationships.

Each room is unique, of course. Each one has a particular shape and size. Some have a lot of stuff in them. Some are almost bare. Some are dark. Some are almost forgotten. But they are rooms with memories and feelings and experiences, and I can visit them if I need to. Lately, I’ve found myself revisiting the earliest rooms on the romantic floor because my son is starting to notice girls and watch his peers begin to date. I’m having to remember those times in my own adolescence so I can (hopefully) help him navigate them better.

For most people, the rooms on the romantic floor of their heart house stop at the one where the relationship that eventually lead to their marriage exists. I will talk about that as part of this journey, but I want to talk about the two rooms that came after my marriage relationship room.

The first room was gorgeous and sexy- dark red paint, four poster bed, silk sheets, red velvet curtains, black lace, chaise lounge, candles everywhere, closed curtains, and plenty of dark corners for dark deeds. It was a room almost entirely full of passion. It is the room where I desired the man who I was attracted to during the Sex Surge (when my libido went way up and I basically could not stop thinking about sex all day- it was fun and horrible). All the desires and fantasies and stupid things I did, said, and wrote live in that room.

This is how the room started out, anyhow. If you go look at it today, it’s very different. There are burn marks on the floor and walls from emotional bombs I set off myself. There are water marks on the walls from the inches of tears of frustration I cried. The curtains are open now, there’s nothing on the walls. The bed is a shambles, desperately broken; I took an axe to it so I could finally leave. There is a photo book with the important memories that I can flip through, when I need to. I learned a lot in that room- about sex, desire, passion, fear- and it took me forever to finally leave it. It took so much strength and practice and pain and energy, but I did it- because I knew my life, my heart, and my soul would be better for it. [I was not so much addicted to him, because he just wasn’t around, as I was addicted to desire and hope. And weaning yourself off emotions can take a lot of effort.]

The room after that is very small. It’s full of windows and white curtains and the sun shines right through so the light almost looks yellow. There is only one thing in the room: a simple bed with white sheets, pillows, comfy blankets. And while desire lived in this room, too, it was much simpler and a lot more infatuation than passion. I took the lessons from the passionate room and learned to leave this one faster. Not to say I didn’t make a bit of a mess along the way (messes are for learning!), but I got out much faster and much easier. I still sometimes visit this room – it’s really quite lovely and calming. (I realized the other day that it is what I was envisioning when I first began to feel into my Wild Heart stage.)

The men I was attracted to in these rooms still walk by and throw virtual pebbles at the window, which is fine. I send them metta. The guy from the sunshine room gets extra prayers. Whenever I sit down to meditate I offer metta and then pray that he falls in love soon. He’s at the stage of life when everyone is pairing off into long-term partnerships and he certainly deserves (and wants, I think) one. [Some kind of something has been happening to him since Sunday night, which is good news. I don’t know if he’s changing to dating his fwb (maybe falling in love with them!) or dating someone new or maybe just hanging with himself, but I truly hope (hope! hope! hope!) he has found his person. I want him to be happy.]

 

Photo by Valentina Locatelli on Unsplash

 

The guy from the sunshine room is the interesting one because there was almost a possibility of an affair with him. Maybe. Almost. Sorta. (I’m quite sure he thought about it.) And I wanted one- after years, I wanted one again. And this is where Mercury in Retrograde set me down and had a good, long talk with me.

When I was in the Sex Surge, part of what I learned was how to channel passion and desire into other places in my life when I couldn’t connect with the guy I was interested in. I learned how to pour it into art, dance, my kids, decorating, erotica. I also changed my marriage in terms of communication, sex, touch, sensual expression, and time away from kids (more of that, please!). I really did fix holes in my marriage and myself. I healed some old wounds and learned how to let that passionate part of myself out to play. (I’m still learning this, honestly.)

This time around, what I discovered is that sometimes there is nothing wrong with a marriage. Sometimes there is not really anything to heal, personally. Sometimes we just desire. We just get infatuated. We just want to jump into the fun of connection. For the first time, in this Mercury in retrograde, I considered the idea that I didn’t need to fight my desire or fix anything about it. Because there is nothing wrong with my marriage. And there is far less brokenness in me than before. I decided, instead of fighting my desire (coming at it perpendicular) to accept it (to run parallel with it). It’s not something I need to fight anymore, I can just let it be.

Of course, there are choices to make when desire comes up again (as it surely will). One thing I am learning since I have accepted my own beauty is that I am attracted to dudes with a lot of potential and a fair amount of brokenness (or emotional immaturity). That is not a standard I want to uphold in the future. I can make choices around that, even in the midst of infatuation. Which actually means I probably will never have an affair, because dudes have got to be as quality as my husband. And he’s one of a kind.

Which leads me to tell you about the room our relationship grows in on the romantic floor of my heart house. It’s a huge room. We’ve been together 22 years. It has decorations and pictures from all the countries we’ve visited (and we lived in England the first year of our marriage). It’s got some bomb blasts, too, but those have been cleaned up and now plants and children and love grow there. There are tears of both pain and joy. (My engagement ring is made of pearls, which symbolize tears- I wanted all this emotion.) There is a bed with a headboard of beautiful Moroccan scroll work, rich, warm sheets, and a fireplace, a huge couch. There is light and color and so much comfort and safety I cannot tell you. There are everyday places to connect and touch and get it on. There is passion here, too- it’s the only room I’ve had 3-minute orgasms in! There is trust and joy and so many levels of intimacy and love I’m not sure I can describe them. We have worked through everything in this room. Just this morning, when I was sweaty from working out, and frightened because of a health issue, he lay down on the floor (because: ab workout) and held me as I cried. The room we have built is magical, and I want to live in it forever.

One of the most important tools I learned in the Sex Surge was to ask, “What do I think I will get or experience if I sleep with this person?” (or connect, or whatever). The answer to that question is full of gold, because we don’t need that other person (usually) to get those experiences. It’s simply that they ‘flip the switch’ for us to be or have or experience those things more easily than we can do for ourselves. The sunshine room was a place where I wanted lack of responsibility, joy, infatuation, recognition, appreciation, playfulness, laughter, relaxation, rest, and a simple kind of sensuality and pleasure. But these are all things I can give myself. They don’t require anyone else.

So, this Mercury in Retrograde taught me two important lessons: that I can align with my desire instead of fight it and that I can have what I most want without taking another lover*.

You know what this means? It’s time for a new tattoo. :o)

Big love from the trail, my people,
Joanna :: xoxo

*If you see me refer to a ‘lover’ or ‘boyfriend’ that’s my husband. He has many different roles in my life, those are just two. I mean, why limit yourself ?

 

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

Confidential to Xela521:

You are, of course, welcome to visit any city, in any state, or country, whenever you wish. But if you are coming to my town with the intent to visit me (or drive by or whatever), please know: that’s very bad boundaries and I can’t imagine it will end well. If you feel the need to communicate with me, there are three, publicly-available email addresses you can reach me at. I welcome anything you want to communicate to me. Most especially if it’s 25k words in all caps. For everyone’s sake: hold smart boundaries.

 

 

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Daring to Love a Wild Woman

“Men may think a wild woman is a woman to be feared. They think, “Oh, she’s a wild woman, that must mean she’s dangerous. She’s probably crazy, too much to handle.” And in a sense, it’s true. She’s too much for someone who isn’t ready to show up fully and check their ego at the door.  She’s too much for someone who would rather have small talk than go deep. She’s too much if you expect her to hold back her anger or sadness or pain to protect you from seeing her in her chaos. But trust this: a wild woman is the safest type of woman you’ll ever meet. She doesn’t hold back. There are no surprises. You’ll meet her and she’ll let you see her for who she is. She trusts her own worthiness enough to reveal herself to you and let you decide whether or not you would like to walk with her. She doesn’t hide parts of herself in an attempt to keep your love because she doesn’t have time for connections that lack depth and meaning. A wild woman will invite you to love all parts of yourself. She’ll accept you in that place, because she has done the work to accept herself there.” 

| Sheleana Aiyana |

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How nice it is to be seen and described. My lover and I were talking about this on Sunday. He said these exact things to me, but I think it applies even if you just want to hang out or be friends with a wild woman (applies 100x more if you want to love her or get with her). I am wild, yes. I am too much for those who don’t want to show up. But for those who do? Oh, baby, you get my whole heart + mind + soul. It takes guts and courage to be a person who shows up for a wild woman, though. Which a lot of people don’t have. (And that is okay. We are all where we are.) I’m learning a lot about myself and relationships and love with this Mercury in retrograde. When it’s all over, I’ll share more. (Don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, less Life smack me, again.)

Big love, you brave and courageous souls,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Broken. And Bright.

The Japanese have this very deep and beautiful type of art known as kintsugi. Kintsugi is the art and practice of taking something that was broken (china, pottery, etc.) and putting it back together using gold or silver to fill in the broken spaces. It’s beautiful when well done and I am fascinated by it.

 

Kintsugi (not the album by Death Cab for Cutie.)
[Photographer unknown. Please contact me if you do know so I can properly attribute.]

 

I believe all humans are kintsugi.

We all have our broken spots. And we can all work to heal them, or at least make them not leak so much. It is in the healing that we find our gold, and our beauty, I believe.

Yes, the world will break you. Your own heart will break you sometimes. But that brokenness does not have to leave us destroyed. We can heal, even if that healing is saying, “I accept that this brokenness exists” and nothing more. There is beauty and value in the relationship we have with what has been lost, as well.

We are all broken. And bright.

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

When I was in my early twenties, a dear friend was trying to get divorced from her husband and had to get their two cars across town to her new apartment or job (I can’t remember which). So she would drive one car a quarter mile ahead of the other, park it on the side of the road, and then walk back and get the other car, drive that one up a quarter mile, park it and go back for the last one, and repeat the cycle over and over again. [She was 20 or 21 at the time, so don’t laugh. She was doing her best with no friends or family in a far-away city.] It took a lot of energy and a long ass time, but she did it.

I was remembering her story because three years ago I wrote a post titled, “I am Healed Enough Now.” [Read it here.] And in that post I talked about the process, the dance, of moving back and forth between wanting to grow and finding that I had things to heal first so that the growth could take place. I had to ‘bring up the rear’ to keep moving forward. It was as if my friend’s cars were tied together with flimsy rope, and she could only drive so far ahead before the second car had to be brought up, too. My psychological and spiritual growth happened like that- one was always chained to the other and I always had to go back to go forward.

I continued to dance this spiritual dance for another three years. I wasn’t wrong in that post- I was healed enough- but I needed three more years of taking tiny steps in that direction until I really felt it. I learned a lot in those three years, and I still did have plenty of healing to do, but I was ready to dance a new dance three years ago, I just didn’t start doing it.

After so many years of working on myself and helping other people work on themselves, I really do believe that healing our past is necessary work. We have to find out what makes us tick and why. We have to deal with the things that stick in our heart, mind, and soul. I am speaking of trauma, but also of the flippant comments a parent or teacher can make that scar us for many years. The ways we tell white lies to ourselves. The old stories from high school that keep us small or frightened. We have to wonder why we react a certain way or hate something or can’t deal with something when other people have no problem with it. Where did that come from? In the famous words of P!nk, “Why do I do that?”

The work of my twenties was to figure out who I was, figure out which societal boxes I wanted to check (job, car, house, kids), and kind of get my life together. The work of my thirties was looking at my shit, my problems, my unhealthy proclivities, and finding their root cause. And then working with the root cause to really heal. The work of my forties is loving who I am and not giving a fuck about what society says (because I am old and outside its reach anyhow).

My twenties were about being conventionally good and successful, ambitious and acquiring. To be accepted inside whatever group I chose to be a part of and define myself by (even if that group was ‘rebellious’- rebels want the rebels to accept them). This time was to form myself.

My thirties were to be broken and explore that space as fully as possible. And in that way, to begin to really know myself. And own myself.

My forties are to pull it together in this weird, artistic way. To fill the holes with healing and authenticity. To know what true beauty is: it is broken. And bright.

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

This past Fall someone told me I was beautiful. And I don’t remember the last time someone told me that. I have always been ‘cute’ and ‘pretty’ to other people. But this guy called me ‘beautiful’ and it made a huge difference to me. I’m sure it’s because in this patriarchal society women depend on the good opinion of men for status- certainly that’s some of it. But I think it’s also that someone simply reflected back to me what I had hoped about myself for a long time. That I wasn’t just a ‘cute’ girl with dimples, but a beautiful woman. I had grown into something deeper and more mature and real. I sort of knew that already, but having it reflected back to me was an important moment. [Isn’t it funny how one small moment can push you in a whole new direction?]

One of the things I realized, pondering and feeling my way through that awareness of my beauty and strength and wisdom, was that I had gotten into the habit of always looking backwards in order to move forwards. I still danced the old dance. And maybe I was ready to dance a new dance. Maybe I was ready to look forward with intention rather than backward out of habit. Maybe I was ready to move forward through strength and wisdom rather than through fixing old stuff [which isn’t bad, it’s just another way to work things].

Now, this doesn’t mean there isn’t still growth to do. This doesn’t mean there won’t be difficulties or stumbling blocks or fuck ups. [I utterly refuse to be one of those ‘positive vibes only’ people; it’s such horse shit.] I had a little fit of early 20s energy at the beginning of the year that needed to get itself worked out [and it was kind of ugly and not my best moment]. And I still hold bits of an old story that I’m ‘too much’ for most people in this world [fact is, that’s true. I am too much for most people. But it weeds out who’s worth trusting pretty quickly, which is handy]. I’ve begun to learn that there are some people I will tone myself down for, but if people don’t dig me or can’t handle being around me, that is Totally Fine. We all gotta be who we are.

The cool part of this is that I’m really ready to step forward into the fullness of who I am. I really am healed enough now- if I did no more healing work (which I will do, but even if I didn’t) I would still be a decent human being who wouldn’t hurt too many people unintentionally. But I’m really ready to accept and know and feel that I’m beautiful, wise, smart, funny, healed enough, and maybe even ready to lead. And I’m also ready to live into my strengths rather than look back at my failures and holes.

To be honest, living into this truth – about my strength and beauty – is going to be a practice just like any other. It will take effort to point forwards rather than running backwards. [Sounds weird, but it’s totally true.] I will need to be patient with myself and practice and fail and learn. It is a daily decision I have to make because it isn’t habit yet. But I am so ready for this. I want it so much. And that is what will pull me forward, the desire.

I’m ready to be new and strong and live that way down to my bones.
I am my own kintsugi.
I am broken. And I am bright.

And here is where I start from.

 

Joanna Meriwether in color, beautiful and strong

 

Thanks for reading, fellow travelers. You don’t know how much it means that you all are here with me. I wish you strength and joy and knowledge of the truth of who you are (which is always good stuff; your truth is always good stuff, I promise).

BIG LOVE, big, big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Redefining ‘the nafs.’

The ‘nafs’ are, in the Sufi (mystical Muslim) tradition, the voices inside of us that are not our best selves, not the highest part of us. We all have these voices, of course. They come from many places: our parents, society (especially society! trying to keep us in line), teachers or coaches, sometimes from our own experiences (‘don’t touch the hot things with your bare hand,’ for instance). But the Sufis are not sure they are our best guidance system for making decisions or living life.

[Mental health side note: when any aspect of the mental or emotional software we have goes too far, it becomes problematic. When these ‘nafs’ type voices go too far, they become schizophrenia. When the very necessary emotional experience of ‘sadness’ goes too far, it becomes depression, and that is problematic. When the useful emotion of ‘anxiousness’ goes too far, it becomes anxiety showing up at the incorrect time or too intensely. We all need enough ego to take care of ourselves, but narcissism takes it off the deep end. You get the idea. ]

But a friend was writing the other day about her internal Board of Directors and it got me thinking about the nafs. Maybe they need a makeover.

The Sufis sort of throw out all the nafs as muttering, nuttering human muck. Osho (famous sex philosopher, also known as The Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh) used to ask his adepts to spend an hour a day muttering incomprehensible things so they could get the unclear, unconnected, non-sense energy out of their system (which I think is not a bad practice, honestly). I think we all know we can be dragged by the hair by those voices inside of us.

But the idea of an internal Board of Directors makes sense to me, a bit. A BoD has people with certain types of expertise on it. In a business it would be marketing, growth, industry insiders, etc. If they aren’t experts, they’re super smart and experienced.

What if the nafs were like that?

What if the anxious voice inside me is actually a wise expert about what makes me feel anxious, what I need to watch out for, what I should get more info on before I jump into it?

What if my sadness was just sharing it’s wisdom about life and how best to handle a particular situation?

Seeing the nafs and my emotions in this way is kind of intriguing to me.

 

I think my nafs might be drunk, tbh.

Photo by Michael Discenza on Unsplash

 

The thing is, though, that we only give one vote to each person on a business Board of Directors. And I think for our internal BoD, we’d need to think about whose vote should have more weight.

In my mid-twenties I worked on a federal level project to help standardize care for kidney dialysis patients. We had a BoD and it was comprised of doctors, patients, social workers, ministers, nurses, etc. who worked in the field. At one point, we had to take a vote on which measures would be included as national standards of care (i.e. how well an individual patient or dialysis site was doing). Each person had 10 votes to split up between 16 options. They couldn’t vote for each one, they had to decide what was most important to them. One doctor used all of his 10 votes on one measure, because he felt it was so important.

I wonder if we need to treat our internal BoD that way. Sometimes we need to give more votes to our anxiety and check things out further. Sometimes we need to take a few votes away from our sadness or even our super-happiness. As we grow through life (if we grow), we fuck up and realize: sometimes our heart deserves all the votes, and sometimes it simply must be overruled by our logical voice. [Unfortunately, this kind of wisdom only comes with time, experience, risk, fucking up, and hurting. This is the beautiful mess of being human. The beautiful, painful mess.]

It may be that looking at our internal voices this way, weighing their insight, is best done if we have a good self-awareness, mindfulness, or meditation practice in place. We need to be somewhat skilled in watching ourselves and/or being fully present and aware. Certainly having a bit of therapy can’t hurt the process, either, because knowing where the nafs come from (is that my little league coach’s voice?) will help us know how to weigh their perspectives and advice.

I’m not sure the point of all this, other than to say: maybe the voices in our heads are sometimes useful and sometimes not. And only we can know which it is. But that knowledge comes at a high cost- the cost of risking and living and fucking up. But, I think, that knowledge is golden, and almost always worth the effort (even when it hurts).

So, fellow traveler, what do you know about this? What voices inside you do you trust? How did you learn to trust them? How much weight do you give the voices of your heart and soul? And how did you learn to do that?

There’s lots to ponder here.

G’night, beloveds. Big love from the path,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Balancing the mid-point

Hey, lovers! I hope you are doing well. I just wanted to post today because it is the day after the vernal equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) and the day before Mercury goes retrograde.

The equinox, of course, is the point where the light part of the day and the dark part of the day are equal. It’s a time to look at how we are balancing our own ‘light’ and ‘dark’ or how those two aspects are dancing in and out of our life. [I use Jungian definitions of ‘light’ and ‘dark.’ ‘Light’ is what we know and like about ourselves. ‘Dark’ is what we know and don’t like about ourselves. ‘Shadow’ is what we don’t know about ourselves that surprises us from time to time. A lot of people interchange ‘dark’ and ‘shadow’ but they are distinct psychological spaces with different purposes.]

The vernal equinox is also the point where light begins to return and so what we have planted – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – in the dark months is now coming alive and beginning to grow. What is poking its head up through the dark earth of your life right now, friends?

There has been a lot of shifting in the last few months and weeks for people – uncomfortable shifts, for many. But we are likely now seeing things change because of the work of acknowledging our issues, beginning to feel through them, and healing (bit by bit). I, for sure, see small changes for folks in my social media realms and it’s really rather beautiful in the messy way that growth often happens. All you making small changes- you’re badasses and I love you.

I have been doing a lot of metta (lovingkindness meditation) in the last few days. This is a lovely form of breath meditation where you offer compassion to yourself, someone you care about, someone you don’t really know, and then the greater community (town, state, country, world). You recite these words first to yourself:

May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
Maybe you be peaceful,
May you live with ease

and send the energy of compassion to yourself as you do it. And then to someone you care about, to someone you barely know, and to the world. It’s a really lovely practice and often fills my heart right up to the brim with compassion. And, if string theory is correct, the person on the other end actually does benefit from it. Nice!

The coming Mercury in retrograde is paired with Venus, the planet of love and relationships. Chani Nicholas wrote something really lovely about that, so I’ll share it with you.

“As Mercury stations retrograde, beside Venus, we are reminded that the heart’s way of loving is full of complexity and paradox.

We can love things about those we aren’t able to be around. We can love the parts of a person that we once knew. We can love folks for all that they were able to give us at one time or another without putting ourselves in harms way with them now. 

The first part of Mercury’s retrograde will help us recall the relationship dynamics we can no longer keep ourselves within. But be gentle with it all. Keep some loving kindness on tap for yourself as you parse out your feelings, needs, and situations.

We must grow. With the spring. With our needs. With our own inner seasons. 

No matter the planets, you are always free to bloom.

[[ You can love something about a person while still protecting yourself from the parts of them that hurt you. You are allowed both. ]]”

 

That, my people, is some beautiful truth. Mercury in retrograde can be a difficult phase, but know that it isn’t there to wreck your life. It’s there to let you sift back through the difficulties, the dark, maybe even the ‘garbage’ of your life and help you deal with it so you can move forward with less weight and more light.

Big love (big love!!) from the trail, my peeps.
Joanna :: xoxo

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

 

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