Archive | Open-hearted

What I Will Tell My Son

I mentioned in a previous post that I had been thinking about what to tell my son about dating and sex and love recently (besides ‘use condoms no matter what,’ ‘ask permission,’ and ‘be kind’). I mean, I’ve actually thought about it since he came home in 3rd grade with a crush on his teacher, and we’ve been very committed to building the foundations for good relationships and…eventually…sex. But I’ve been thinking about some important wisdom I want to pass on to him. This is what I’ve got so far.

 

Photo by Sabina Ciesielska on Unsplash

 

Date.

I grew up in a time when people actually dated. Two people, going out somewhere together, spending time getting to know each other. I know that the generations coming up behind me brought us the ‘group’ date, where there was a clutch of kids who hung out together and some paired off from time to time. But that’s not the same as dating. And neither is Tinder.

I’m going to tell him to date. To practice asking a person out (and being both accepted and denied). To figure out who pays and how that works with each person. To learn the logistics of how to find fun things to do and how to compromise on what is chosen. To know, from the first few moments, that the date is going to suck and then remain polite and friendly and get out of it quickly. To learn to let someone down when the feeling is not mutual and to accept it when he’s not someone’s cup of tea, either. To enjoy the infatuation stage (because it’s so fun!); to learn to fly and laugh and do silly, stupid stuff in that stage, because it’s good to lose your mind in love sometimes.

But also to practice taking one step at a time. Especially when he first starts out. To go out. To get sweaty palms when you first hold hands. To get all awkward with the first kiss. To learn who the other person is, and let them learn you. To wait…a while…until they have sex. Because sex is an entirely different ball game (sorry) and there is no going back to ‘holding hands’ once you cross the line into sex. From the side of life I’m on, it’s important to have steps between ‘hello’ and ‘I’d like to sleep with you.’ Those steps keep your heart safe, your mind less confused, and your energy less entwined should things fall apart. And, god knows, dating and being a teenager are fucking confusing enough.

 

Sex is energy exchange.

I grew up in a fairly religious household and I was told to wait until I was married to have sex. I obviously didn’t, but one thing I recognize as being part of this rule is that sex is important because it is an energy exchange. Tantra is very clear about this- when we engage in sex, we are connecting to some of the most intense (sometimes hidden) energy of the person we’re with. And that can be great, but it can also be a mess. (I spoke about this some in this post– beware, it is about rape.)

I want my son to know that whoever he sleeps with will leave some of their energy with him. Even if it’s just a little. Even if he barely remembers sleeping with them. Some part of them will stay with him. And therefore to choose his lovers wisely. This is not to say that everything has to be deep- sometimes a good one-night stand or a quick fuck can be a fantastic energy exchange. But just to understand that some part of it will stick with him. And to think about that before getting it on.

 

It’s good to have your heart broken at least once. 

Because, my god, does it give you compassion for people. Whether it’s unrequited love or a full-on break up from a much loved relationship, we all need to do it. We need to feel the pain of having our heart smashed to smithereens and learn how to heal from it. That is probably the most important piece- for him to learn how he handles a break-up and to learn to take care of himself when it happens. Whether that’s a bit of depression (more than 2 weeks and you need to see the doctor, okay?), or a fuck ton of Doritos and Netflix, I don’t care. But he needs to learn this.

Also, a good break-up can help us learn how to be better at loving and relating the next time around. I will do my damnedest to help him figure out what went wrong, take responsibility for his part in it, and learn to do better next time. But only after the Doritos and the sad songs and the weeks in sweat pants.

 

Learn from good men.

My son has a very good role model in his father. A man who communicates and grows and listens and isn’t afraid of his own needs or soft side. I am grateful for this. My son also has other types of men who he admires and respects. I know he will learn good things from them about relationships (of all kinds).

But I’m also going to point him towards people like Jayson Gaddis and Bryan Reeves, who know their shit when it comes to being in long-term relationships, how to fight well, and how to learn and grow in relationships. I will tell my son that the most important things he can do and learn for romantic relationships is communication and personal growth. Because men who don’t grow will get left behind in love. I believe the men in his life will also show him how to be courageous in relationship, which is also important.

 

If it’s wishy-washy, let it go. 

If there is a relationship where my son gets together, breaks up, and rinse, repeat x 10,  I will tell him what I know as a minister: these relationships never do well in the long run; let it go. I’ve performed marriages for a fair amount of people, and the ones who decided to get married because they’d been engaged and broken up 3 times already or because they needed to ‘fish or cut bait’ don’t end up married for long. It almost never works out in a healthy, happy way. There is a subtle but hugely important difference between someone who wants you and someone who just doesn’t like the feeling of your absence.

So I will tell my son to let her go. To go through not only the break up, but also the understanding that someday she may invite him to her wedding, and he will have to revisit this shit all over again. Or that she may call him in five years, a different person, and he’ll have to go through all the receipts from the fist time and say no with a heavy heart. I will hold him and help him as he goes through the birthing of himself out of that relationship (because there is a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth and ‘I don’t know which way to turn’- I’ve been there) because that’s how it goes. The heart is a house with many rooms, and some we have to leave unwillingly (this is how we develop strength). Because wishy-washy is not what works; knowing and choosing is.

 

When you know, choose her. 

The men I know who are happiest in their marriages had two things happen when they chose their mate: 1- they ‘knew’ sometime within the first few weeks or months that ‘s/he was the one’ and 2- they chose their mate, clearly and purposefully. My husband says he ‘knew’ because he felt so good around me, he felt lifted up and supported and seen. We had our rocky spots, but he knew he wanted to choose me, and he did. One other man I know said his wife smelled right to him. Whether that’s biology and pheromones or just a hint of cinnamon because she’s a cook, I don’t know. But he ‘knew’ and he picked her.

The other item is so important I cannot tell you. Some men choose their partners based on practicality or ‘shoulds’ (‘I should choose her, she’s so smart and pretty and x, y, z’), but those relationships tend to go sour after a while. I think it’s because they aren’t choosing the other person from their gut or from their own truth or knowing or deepest desire; they are choosing from some outside metric and that’s no good. The men who have chosen a woman from something they sense inside themselves (it’s sometimes as simple as a clear, deep ‘I want to be with HER’), those are the relationships that last. And I think it’s because when a guy chooses, he sticks to that commitment. (I could be wrong, but that’s my experience.)

I will tell my son to listen to his own knowing. And when he finds the one who smells right or makes him feel the best or whatever, when he knows, to pick her. And to do it over and over again.

 

True love changes.

True love is when the type of love Person 1 gives most easily is exactly the type of love Person 2 is craving *and* when the type of love Person 2 gives most easily is the type of love Person 1 is craving. It is a heady fucking combo and it feels like safety and flying all at once because it’s so easy to give and it feels so good to get exactly what you want. And if he should find that, I will tell him to hold on to it and do the work of a lifetime so that it doesn’t leave him.

How we give and receive love changes with age and healing (if we do our work!), which is why communication and personal growth are so important. But the couple who can honestly discuss what’s going on for each of them, even when it hurts them or the other person, is the couple that will last. Going through the growth together is what counts. Certainly, it may not last. Humans are made to have 2-3 long-term relationships over the course of their life. But if he can communicate and grow and seek to grow together, he can be proud of what happens, even if that is the dissolution of the relationship.

I will tell him I know this because it is the work his father and I have done for 22 years now. We fell into this kind of love- true love- but we also became best friends and decided to do the work (sometimes the really fucking hard, painful work) of staying together and growing together. We always want the best for each other, and that is what has made it work for us. Our happiness is somewhat linked to the other’s happiness (it’s a healthy dose of co-dependency, not the hurtful kind) and we take the other person’s needs and dreams seriously. And we have also had three fights where we almost got divorced and handful of other fights where one or the both of us figured out we needed therapy (because the root of our problem was not ‘us’ but our personal past or trauma). Sometimes keeping the couple alive means healing individual wounds. I will tell my son this.

 

Be yourself and find the one who loves that.

There are ideas (and memes) floating around that say we have to love ourselves before someone else can love us or that we have to somehow get over all our shit before we can be good in a relationship. These ideas are both bollocks. Because while a decent level of self-respect and self-esteem are pretty key, being in relationship is going to bring up a person’s shit and there is no way around that and no way to preempt it with therapy or self growth. There just isn’t. Relationship is its own cauldron and you have to let the fire of it change you (hopefully into something more refined).

There are hard things I am going to have to let my son learn on his own. He will learn boundaries by not having good ones, which is okay as long as he has a good community safety net to help him. He will learn to not play games by playing and getting tired of it. He will have to learn that being honest with himself and his partner is paramount by fucking that up, too.

Jayson Gaddis taught me that life and relationships are a struggle between wanting to be ourselves and wanting to be loved. And we sometimes hide pieces of ourselves so that we can be loved. So I will tell my son: find someone you can be as much of yourself with as possible, find someone who will listen to and love the truth of you. Provide the same in return. Stay communicating and honest about who you are and who you are becoming so that you can have both a strong sense of yourself and feel loved.

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

I’m sure this isn’t all I’ll have to tell him. And certainly these lessons will come as they come- some at 14, some at 24. But I want him to learn these things earlier than I did so he can have a better chance at longer love.

What wisdom do you have for the young-and-in-love?

With gratitude,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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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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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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moons and seasons

I know I post about the moon regularly, and that certainly helps keep me in my own loop about where I am physically and emotionally in this ever-changing world. But I keep wanting to go back to a couple of practices I used to share here. Namely, noticing the seasons and naming my sensual pleasures and supports. I think it’s time to combine them. And because today was the ultimate in transition (see pictures), I’d like to start today.

Today, April 2nd, at 9 am.
It was the kind of snow you wanted on December 24th- fat, fluffy flakes floating downward.

 

Today, April 2nd, 4 pm.
This was also the kind of snow you wanted on December 24th- the kind that
cleans itself up by the afternoon commute.

 

One thing I’d like to do with this practice is list what sensual supports I used and enjoyed in the previous/ending season, and then list what sensual supports I hope or plan to use and enjoy in the coming/beginning season – and then see what I actually end up enjoying. So, here we go!

Winter’s Sensual Supports

black tea with too much sugar and cream
flannel sheets
nubby wool socks for bed
crocheted afghans
Star Wars
70s Lite Rock on Pandora
the sunshine of this song
putting up pictures
dreaming of Paris
gluten free oreos
longer, hotter showers
heavy black, leather boots (rainbow laces!)
laughter and snuggling
prayer + meditation
candles
the big silver earrings that ‘tinkle’ all day when I wear them
extra sweatshirts
homemade beef stew
hot bread with butter
popcorn!
listening and helping
building fires
the sound of them crackling
day trips with good friends
the feeling of being warm enough
watching the sun come up on my bike
books about witches
naps!
cleaning off the altar
daydreaming while I read
sorting through my feelings and letting go
the OMD concert

 

Sensual Seeds for Spring

first day with the windows down and the music up in my car
leather jacket + sweatshirt (instead of winter coat)
running outside again
green tea
ee cummings poems
Irish soda bread and Guinness stew
opening the windows
the blue bed spread
reading William Stafford (although, he’s really best in the Fall)
Snow Patrol station on Pandora
Snow Patrol’s new album (there’s nothing quite like poetry from a former priest)
short-sleeved white t-shirts + jeans
naps in the papasan
crocus’ arriving
licking the bowl
nights that are warm enough to sit outside in the dark
the smell of Spring
rain (I’m the only person in Rhode Island who loves it when it rains)
the sound of water running and children laughing
walking to the bus stop
cleaning out books (to make way for more, obvs)
prom
a new corset
almond-scented lotion
first glass of lemonade
touching fingertips
watching new green things push through the earth
growing peas

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

This is where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I hope to go. The pleasures of this life I hope to delight in. What are yours this coming Spring?

Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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I am a witch. And a monster.

You ever type your own name into Google and see what comes up? Or your maiden name? Or alternate spellings of your name? (Maybe it’s just me.) Well, it started like that.

I typed “Joanna Meriwether witch” into Google and this is what I saw:

The text reads:

“Ewen recounts how in 1543, a Canterbury townswoman, named Joanna Meriwether – who otherwise made no claims to being a witch – confessed to having cast a spell on a young woman named Elizabeth Celsay and her mother with a holy candle. Confessions were often obtained from suspects over a number of days through beatings and sleep deprivation. Meriwether ultimately admitted that she had built a small fire over Elizabeth’s feces and allowed wax from a burning church candle to drip over it. She had later told neighbors (it is not clear if they were called as witnesses) that this would cause the ‘girl’s buttocks to divide into two parts.’ ” (Folklore of Kent, Fran and Geoff Doel, 2009)

My friend, A, said she showed me this when we met two years ago. I replied, “I’m sure you did. And I have no recollection of it at all.” (Exactly INFJ, ha!)

When I shared this on social media, one friend, a comedian, noted that it was set up just like a Patton Oswalt joke, only to finally reveal that Joanna Meriwether was simply throwing shade at a bitch, the 1543 version thereof. And two other friends were kind enough to point out that I invented the butt crack. (Which, in addition to really dirty sex jokes, is exactly my sense of humor).

What’s really interesting here is that the name is spelled exactly the same as mine. Which is a rare thing. Usually it’s easy to find things about our name if the spelling changes a bit- add an extra ‘r’ or ‘a’ in my case, and I’m sure there are many other things out there. So the exact spelling makes a gal wonder. A handful of friends on social media certainly suggested that I was looking at my exact past life. I did have an irrational hatred for England before I lived there. And certainly my lot in this life is cosmic crap cleaning for other people, so maybe that’s just karma clearly at work. Maybe it was me. Or is.

The fact is, even today I don’t totally claim ‘witch’ as my label. Do I do some energetic work? Totally. Can I see into other realms? Kind of- I certainly find lost things, whether that’s rings or nametags or souls or your truth. But, just like my 1543 self, I’ve never fully claimed that title. I consider myself, very much, to be a bridge between worlds, whether that’s spirit and science or magic and muggle. I speak both.

Of course, in this post, I also promised to talk about how Mercury in retrograde was handing me my ass (terrible segue, I know) and how I’ve come to know myself as a monster as well.

This past week, as Mercury in retrograde began, I made an honest request of my latest spiritual patron and got exactly what I asked for. I asked her for truth about my self and within the hour one of the most sacred pieces of my spiritual practice was dashed into a million pieces as I realized how much of my ego I’d invested in it. I’m not going to say which piece, just know it was very precious to me and sustained me for many years. To see that it had become an amplification of my own ego hurt like hell, even as I knew it was the truth. It was like one of those situations when you realize the thing you’re supposed to hate or leave is actually the thing you want desperately to keep (or vice versa).That slo-mo sense of everything crushing inward was exactly how I felt.

The only way to handle this kind of ego crushing is to accept it. To cry and feel stupid and ashamed and guilty in my own sabotage. And, just like all the other times this has happened, my whole internal self is called into question- what is real and what is not? As the hours passed, I would feel all my feelings (because, holy shit, you want to bypass that kind of pain as quickly as you can, so staying with it is a major task) and then try to see what I might take from the rubble. And the cool thing was, what I could take was more rubble, more destruction.

There were things I had built inside myself, psychic or emotional or spiritual structures, beliefs, ideas, perspectives that were part of this practice that was destroyed. And all of those things were destroyed, too. It felt exactly like wooden houses, built like the Three Little Pigs, blown away in one fell swoop. And even as it felt like destruction, it also felt like freedom. I could let it all go.

I could let it all go.

So, I did. I let it all go. And I felt somehow cleaner inside myself, but also with a sense of grief and vulnerability, rawness. A sense of myself as small and silly and immature. But that’s okay. Because I was free. And free to start again- this time with wisdom.

 

Fire is magic. Burning it all into stars.

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

 

One of the things I realized in this experience is how monster-like the truth can feel. When the truth comes for you, it can feel so utterly overwhelming and horrible, even if you know it’s right. It can feel (and is) destructive, crashing around like The Hulk inside of you. It’s hard to handle and accept and that’s why most people run or refuse to feel something until they are somewhere more psychically safe than their own mind (say, by projecting on a loved one or running away from a relationship simply so we have space to feel the truth).

And I realized how much of a monster I have been in delivering the truth to people sometimes.

I am a truth-teller. Truth is one of the three core values I live by- whether that is personal truth, capital “T” universal truth, or some other level of truth. I value it highly. But I also use it like a hammer sometimes- and it can be destructive and painful for others. (Sometimes I don’t give a damn if it hurts other people; sometimes people deserve to be hurt by their own truth if they’re so stupid as to avoid it for their entire life.) And that is true whether I’m delivering a ‘positive’ truth or a ‘negative’ one.

I should have known this, of course. When I’m at my full strength, fully myself, there are only about 5 people on this Earth who like me and can handle me. For everyone else I am some level of ‘too much.’ (Which I have learned to not let stop me- more about that Monday or Tuesday.) So, of course, when I stand in my full strength and power and tell someone the truth, it’s going to come out like napalm and set some things on fire. And I’m going to be the monster who did it.

What does this mean? More discernment is the thing I keep coming back to. Discernment about when and where to use the truth (which I already try to do), but adding in discernment about how to deliver it. In pieces. Or softly. Perhaps couched in a story. Simple but gentle. Because my tendency is to deliver it like a cannon delivers a cannonball. The truth doesn’t have to be so destructive. I don’t want it to be- I want the truth to help.

Of course, all this will take time and risk and fucking up. But I do have some wisdom and caution on my side. I will try to be careful, even as I know I’ll have to screw it up to really learn and grow. So, yes, I am a witch and a monster. But trying to be a better version of both of those things.

I was reminded by a favorite teacher that these moments of difficulty and growth are merely the valley in a multi-orgasmic life. The heat and the energy will rise again. This is just the refractory period for my soul. (Ha!) I’ll take it.

Love from the trail, my friends,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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