Archive | Spirituality

The book of ‘Nanette’

I have believed for many years that sacred truths which serve the best of our humanity will continue to speak even if it seems that we have no scribes or bards or druids to hear them, remember them, and pass them on. And while it may seem that we don’t have these guides in this modern age, I believe we actually do. Justin Bieber’s song writer did it. Britney, Christina, and P!nk have given us a fresh rendition of the Divine Feminine. And in this post I shared three writers who are carrying on the tradition of sacred truth, even in the midst of political chaos and no culturally guiding principles except fame and capitalism. These days I would add Alexis Morgan of the Church of St. Felicia to the mix; she tells the truth and gives no fucks, goddess bless her. The truth tellers are out there. The truth will live even if there are no traditional sacred places or people for it to emanate from. New ways will be found, new ways will be made.

I also believe that lots of things can be a Bible. Many books and TV shows are completely capable of being guides for good behavior, handling bad times, and providing us with archetypes for how to live our life. I am partial to Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Wars, among others.

Like a lot of people, I watched Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’ (on Netflix) a couple of weeks ago and was deeply moved by it. She said new things. She validated the experience of a lot of women. And she told a lot of truth.

Ms. Gadsby turned the trauma necessary to comedy on its head:

“Punchlines need trauma, because punchlines need tension and tension feeds trauma. I didn’t come out to my grandmother last year because I’m still ashamed of who I am. Not intellectually, but right here [points to heart], I still have shame. You learn from the part of the story you focus on. I need to tell my story properly.” 

And also this:

“I have built a career out of self-deprecating humor and I don’t want to do that anymore. Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it come from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility, it’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, and I simply will not do that anymore, not to myself or anybody who identifies with me. If that means that my comedy career is over, then, so be it.” 

 

She spoke very clearly to men who feel uncomfortable in the MeToo era:

“Pull your socks up. How’s that for humiliation? Fashion advice from a lesbian, and that’s your last joke.”

 

Her words on public (and social media) interaction are wise and so very needed:

“This is about how we conduct debate in public about sensitive things. It’s toxic. It’s juvenile. It’s destructive. We think it’s more important to be right than it is to appeal to the humanity of people we disagree with.” 

 

For many women I know, Ms. Gadsby’s words about rebuilding ourselves after hardship (whatever it may have been) resonated deeply:

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

[Blessed be, blessed be, blessed be. Which is how pagans say ‘amen.’]

 

And this, which is for all of us who are broken:

“To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak. To yield and not break, that is incredible strength.”

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

I do not believe that just because something is popular it should be made sacred (far from it). ‘Nanette’ isn’t just popular, though. It speaks truth. It pulls back the curtain and shows the truth- bloody, messy, awful. But it also gives hope in the form of truth- that we can be kind, that we can rebuild ourselves, that we can be resilient and in that resiliency find our strength.

Ms. Gadsby’s words deserve a space in the modern sacred texts, a book in the modern ‘Bible.’ They are sacred because they are true. And true, perhaps, in a way we haven’t understood before. Or rather, true in a way we haven’t understood because these words were not allowed to live in the light before. Yes, that is why they are sacred- they tell a story that has always been true, but just not allowed to live openly.

Here is to your own sacredness and resiliency and truth.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Oh, my, my. Oh, hell, yes.

 

Photo by Frank Flores on Unsplash

 

The Serpent Manifesto

Woman-
Go now and build a madness nest
a treasure chest
a place to rest
so every woman who is seeking solid ground can land her feral dancing
can wail her prayers and chanting
her no apology passion
and her sacred, soulful ranting

This is our demand
This is the voice of snakes
and the psalms of hands
All your sisters before you- they knew
All your sisters before you- they walked through this fire, too
They faced the shaming and the shunning
Yet they fanned the holy humming
Then they welcomed a new coming

We need your wildness, Woman
We need your wolf howl, Woman
We need your deep scowl, Woman
We need your truth vow, Woman

We need it as much as we need
your care taking
We need it as much as we need your love making
Because Kings and Queens- they’re one
Because divided kingdoms are done

The world needs all of you, but more importantly- you need all of you- the rushing river cluster star loud scream soft melt hard thrust slither kiss ALL of you

YOU need your wildness, Woman

And it’s not going away
it’s not giving up on you
it’s hunting you like a focused warrior
Ruling you like a golden empress
Rocking you like an ancient cradle
Injecting your life with
holy
healing
venom.

| Jocelyn Edelstein |

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

When you want some of this magic,
when you think you might be ready to beg for it,
come find me.

Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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The Best Thing You Can Do With Your Life is Rebel

We are born into boxes.

When they pull you up and out of the womb, the first thing they say is the first box you’ll be stuck with: “It’s a boy!” “It’s a girl!”

You are born into a family with rules and norms already established, which you will be expected to follow.

Religion.
Sexuality.
Politics.
Behavioral norms.
Expectations for how your brain should work.
Et cetera.

Now, only recently have we come to understand that maybe this isn’t the best idea. That there ought to be room for people to define their own life, to describe their own gender, sexuality, politics, religion. But this is a very recent development.

As a parent, I certainly had no idea of this when my children were born. I knew I didn’t want to put as many requirements on them as my family had on me, but I was definitely not thinking about letting them define their own gender at the time they were born. (Although this seems like a reasonable thing, 13 years later.) I did expect that having children would bring people into our family and that they would be expected to function within this family until they were able to care for themselves. I see now that this was also slightly misguided. Already my kids are defining their lives away from our family rules (cool but also hard). I have to remember that rebelling, and becoming who they are, is the best thing they can do. And the best thing for our family.

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

I’ve been thinking about rebellion a bit lately. That we are given, or accept, these boxes at various points in life and, quite often, they do not end up fitting who we are as we grow into our own truth. The boxes we are given may be as foundational as gender (M or F, pick one?) and breaking out of that can be a long, hard path. More often, I think we have to break out of the boxes of sub-culture: religion, politics, job expectations, etc.

I had to break out of the sub-culture of Christianity, a sub-culture that served me well for many years.

I had to break out of the sub-culture of ‘normal’ heterosexual marriage. [Have I told this story before? The day after we were married and headed out to our honeymoon, I sat my husband down, crying, and said, “I don’t want to be married to you anymore! I don’t want to be a ‘wife!’ ” He was a bit taken aback, but understood what I was getting at. I did not want traditional marriage roles. He gracefully said we would not be ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ then, but ‘partners’ – and so we have been.]

I had to leave the sub-culture of conservative politics.

I have been gradually transforming what sub-culture I relate to in my sexual identity.

I refused to enter the sub-culture of ‘busy kids’ where everyone has multiple activities. [Dare to be bored, my children!]

As an entrepreneur, I have left the sub-culture of ‘9-to-5 job.’ [They punish you big for this one.]

And more.

But it is in leaving these sub-cultures, in making my small rebellions, that I have become myself.

It has been in the moments of saying, “This does not work for me. This culturally-decided rule does not fit who I am or how I wish to live,” that I have created my own life, and been true to my deepest and best self.

This is messy work.

It is hard to leave behind boxes that supposedly guarantee the successes our culture offers. Certainly, as a white woman, even when I ‘rebel’ I still get the goodies- the money, the safety, the support our society calls ‘success.’ The stakes are higher and the punishment worse for people of color, indigenous people, disabled people, and others who dare to rebel.

There is a woman I follow on Facebook- Isabel Faith Abbott- who writes and speaks about rebelling in the medical realm. She refuses to accept the story of the ‘good warrior’ who deals with health issues and puts a smile on at every appointment or dismisses her pain and suffering (or tried to ‘make love and light’ out of it). She is a rebel whose quality and authenticity I hope to achieve. (She also just does not put up with the bullshit of our society and I learn a lot simply from reading her work.)

On the flip side, I know a hundred people who have not felt able to rebel around their work, and so are stuck with the ‘golden handcuffs.’ Income that provides for their needs and wants and safety, but a job that actually sucks the life out of them. (Some call it ‘slow suicide’ and I don’t think that’s far off from the truth.) Their choosing to not rebel leaves them empty, if safe. [I have begun to wonder about how this plays out with white women who politely protect racism…another post, perhaps.]

 

Photo by Aashish R Gautam on Unsplash

 

Rebellion is often hard, painful work. It can be hard due to emotional pain, leaving family, leaving work, leaving ideas of our self and who we are (or who we thought we were). In some cases there is deep punishment for rebelling. This may be with money or access to healthcare or simply access to our own bodies (I think of women in this and other cultures who have no say over who and what is done to their bodies; their rebellion may mean death) or many other things.

But the rebellion is often worth it.

Because to be able to be true to one’s own self is what the soul calls for. 

And to shake off or refuse the boxes that we are given throughout our life is a call to soul development, soul loving, and soul truth. It is being real.

To accept yourself, and thereby carve your own path, is much of what we are here to do. And I believe it makes the world a better place. When we show the fullness of who we are, we make a bigger, brighter, better version of the world to live in. We make more faces for God to love and laugh through.

Be who you are, fellow rebels. The world needs your colors and light and truth.

And I will be here, cheering you on.

Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Some things about grief. And love.

Off and on for most of this week, there has been a song playing in my head. It’s “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. It’s a song about missing someone who has died and how the belief that they live on (in heaven, in this case) brings comfort and a hope for eternal reunion.

Now, admittedly, I have been listening to a bit more Mariah Carey than usual. She’s been a reminder of Spring to me this year (also, my entire summer fashion aesthetic stems from her clothes in this video). But this is different. This song has been invading my head. It’s not like it just shows up out of the blue. It’s more like the song is insistent- it shows up and I can’t quite get it to go away. I try to think of another song, but this one comes back.

This isn’t a weird thing for me, in some ways. I have strange ‘gifts’. I can find lost things for people I care about. My Dad once asked for help finding a ring of my mother’s. I could see the ring and told him what the surroundings were like- dark, green, soft. He found it in his green truck, in a small, velvety pocket. I’ve ‘found’ other things- important pieces of clothing, lost papers, old mementos. (I sometimes wonder if I am attracted to people, or they are attracted to me, because some part of them is lost and I know how to find it again.)

I’m not sure how I came by this gift. I have looked at being empathic, being highly sensitive, being intuitive, and being slightly psychic. My spiritual guide says I’m a highly sensitive person, instead of empathic. I suppose it doesn’t matter what the label is, I still can do the thing.

Another thing this ‘gift’ does is it sometimes pushes back at me. It’s like I have a very wide, sensitive net around me and sometimes I can simply listen to what’s going on in the strings, but sometimes things get caught in it. Like this song.

Now, I don’t think this is some kind of direct revelation, a la The Bible. I think it’s simply my psyche taking in some information from the ethereal web and translating it into something I identify with. So, somewhere, someone I know is probably dealing with grief right now. Maybe they have experienced grief lately, maybe they are just surrounded by it. I don’t know. I also don’t know who it is- I’m connected to lots of people emotionally and I’m not sensitive enough to know who it is specifically (believe me, I wish I could know sometimes. At least then I could tell people to watch out for X or help them deal with Y). But whoever you are, this is for you.

 

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

 

When I was in college, I worked at a nursing home as CNA and I saw people die. I sat with them at the moments before, during, and after their death. I washed the warm and cooled bodies of people after they passed. The first time scared the shit out of me. Every time after I volunteered, because I knew I would be gentle and patient, where others had not been.

I have seen the moment of death be full of fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, fight. I have also seen the moment of death be full of acceptance, calm, love, relaxation, strength, and curiosity. Please do not equate the ‘good’ moments of death with ease. Difficult dying can still bring peaceful moments. People who die by suicide are some of the strongest people I have known (they misguidedly think that their death will be a relief for themselves and others, which, of course, it isn’t). [It would be misguided of me to not say this: if you are considering suicide, please take the time to call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. And please consider these stories from people who survived jumping from the Golden Gate bridge; their difficulties became workable and so can yours.]

One thing that was clear at all the deaths I have been a part of is that the moment after, the moment when the brain is quiet and the lungs no longer expand or contract, is a very peaceful moment. It is a relaxation of everything. The final breathing out that lets everything go. It’s over and everything can begin to settle and unfold. It is the end of life, but the beginning of death, which is a very peaceful (and active) process.

There are belief systems which state that what we say or think at the moment of our death impacts our karma in the next life. Other belief systems state that our souls are whisked away to some other place in another plane of existence after death. Of course, other belief systems state that we go nowhere, simply returning to dust and dirt. Based on my experiences, I am a firm believer in the First Law of Thermodynamics: that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed. I believe we get transformed when we die. (I do believe in reincarnation- there is simply too much evidence for it- but I think the remembrance of past lives is a rarity.)

All of this is to set the ground to point towards grief. Because there are many kinds of death in this life, not just the ones involving the loss of physical life. And they all involve transformation. I believe grief is the work of transformation for those who are left behind.

Despite the model of the Five Stages of Grief, we all know that grief is anything but linear. Grief is something that may grab us when death first arrives. Or it may sit quietly near us and just…exist…for a good long time. Sometimes grief dissipates quickly, like an insect bite that heals quickly. And sometimes grief is a deep, heavy burden to bear that almost refuses to budge (this seems to be most true when grief opens the door for longer-term depression). Grief has its own way, its own time, its own color and rhythm and intensity. For each death, grief is its own dance. For some, this dance is haggard and horrible. For others it is difficult, but graceful. It depends on what our hearts have the resiliency to deal with.

One definition of grief that I love comes from Susan Piver who wrote The Wisdom of a Broken Heart. She wrote that grief is love with no target. Our love, whatever it may look like, leaves us and roams around the places inside us, inside our life, where we used to connect with someone or something that has died. And because it ricochets, it touches us, over and over again.

This idea has comforted me greatly for the seasons of grief in my own life. I have also experienced that grief tends to come and go, sometimes arriving quite unexpectedly. My grief for a great grandmother who died when I was seven only returned to be fully felt when I was 15. Every year when I see snapdragons I have a ‘ping’ of grief for my grandfather’s death. A friend only grieved for her grandmother after her dog and rabbit died in the same week. For some, grief is a box they carry in their heart, always. For others, it is a cloud that comes to sit with them on important days and anniversaries. In my experience, grief does tend to dissipate with the years, the weight is not as heavy. But it also never quite goes away. It can heal, but the scar is still something we can run our fingers over, even if it does not hold the pain of the open wound.

Whoever you are out there, the one who has connected with me in such a way that your song of grief pings back to me, I want you to know this: grief is normal. It is also strange. And it is a journey only you can walk through, but you should not always walk alone. Let those who love you carry you sometimes- you don’t have to tell them the whole story, just let them comfort you and support you (make sure they are not stuck in their own grief, because this can drag you both down). Grief can heal, but it will also likely sting in places you never expected. It’s okay to feel the sting; feeling it is the only way to get through it. Grief is also a way to see how much we loved the other person, experience, idea, dream, whatever. Try to love the love. It is what’s best about you and your relationship with the one who passed.

Perhaps it is strange that all this should come from a Mariah Carey song being stuck in my head this Spring. But perhaps not. Because even as I write this, there are petals falling from the trees in my back yard, already dead and dying. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. And all we can do is be glad to be alive, living through all of it.

Big love to you all, most especially to those who grieve,
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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