Archive | Words

New England [from Paris]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Naked faced me.

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

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

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

Big love from the trail,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Night, the beloved.

 

 

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

 

“Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

 

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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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Too much. And enough.

“Don’t ever tell her she’s not the stuff of heroes and warriors simply because she’s a girl. Don’t ever imply she’s weak or too delicate to overcome. She is a resilient being of flesh and light, the epitome of beauty – made up of thoughts and intellect, endurance and courage, her essence as unique as her dreams. She’ll tear away thorny vines and scale walls to climb her way through adversity. She’ll arise to challenge and will eat all the what ifs before they ever have a chance to consume her. She will go places. And everywhere she goes, the stars will be suffused by her shine.”

| Susan Frybort, Open Passages: Windows and Doors to the Soul |

 

“When she says she wants you, she wants you fully. When heat burns like wildfire in her eyes and her gaze is set upon you, a holy invitation is being extended by this sacred being of flesh, bone, and spirit. When she who is woven of dew drenched moss and Summer storms blossoms like a rose, it is a dance of the divine.

Dive into her raging fire and be consumed by the flames. Burn with her, feeling every lick of heat melting flesh into liquid. Shatter with her, into a million fragments; screaming into the darkness and scattering like ashes on the breeze.

Her hunger is like no other, this wild feminine flame that pulls at the very fabric of your soul. Walk with her into the unknown, uncovering worlds of euphoria if you dare. Once you embrace her, you will never be the same.

When she says she wants you, this is not a vow to take lightly. If you accept her invitation when she sets her gaze upon you, choosing fully, you will never be the same.”

| Ara, “When She Says She Wants You” |

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

I was thinking of the Persephone post I wrote a few days ago, and this one from She Who Is (“The Lover’s Embrace of Life”), talking about taking Life as a lover (which is the path I first committed to here) and what the seasons of that love look like. And I am feeling really good. I’m feeling full.

And my ‘full’ is often too much for other people. Which I am finally coming to realize is fine. I am big. So much love. So much curiosity and desire. So much joy and sadness and fearlessness. So much. And that is too much for some folks (and especially for a lot of dudes). So far, only one dude has the hands and heart big enough to hold all of me. (His hips happily pin me down, when I need it, too.)

In the last month or two I have wanted to change something again and so I’ve been picking up the crumbs of clues around me and I’ve found my way to this place of fullness and acceptance. And maybe it only lasts for a season, but I’m just loving how it feels.

It’s funny, since I’ve aligned more with my desire, it taunts me far less. And I’m learning how to deal with younglings when they get all smiley around me. (After the last one, I was kinda like, “nah, that’s good enough.” But, now that I kind of don’t care, and I have a better idea of how to handle them, they’re coming out of the wood work. Cutie guy at the deli who is all eyecontacteyecontacteyecontact and a little blush at the end. And same with Mr. Helpful-and-I’m-Toucing-Your-Hand at the variety store. Perhaps it’s true that once you have enough, once you can let it all go, it comes rushing in [which is to say: I don’t want a youngling anymore, even if they’re fun to flirt with]. I’m full of happiness and Life, but I’m also packing this fun away to remember in other seasons.)

It’s also sort of funny that since I’ve given myself permission to desire and run along with it, I don’t want other people for sexual affairs. Sex with other people is so unpredictable. You might get someone great at sex, you might get someone terrible at it. You know what’s almost always fun, though? Making out. So that’s what I’m into now. Who would be a good make-out partner? Because that’s almost always hot, fun, exciting, and fulfilling. And when it’s not, you can practice more. So much more satisfying. And it might actually be something I could engage in with my partner’s permission. It’s funny how things change when you let yourself off the hook and accept yourself.

So, I’m too much. I’m also in a space of ‘enough.’ And that is the perfect, gorgeous balance I’ve been working towards for years. I’ve chosen myself, fully, and I’ll never be the same. I love this life right now. I love it always, but it’s easy to love it right now.

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

Fellow travelers, if you are struggling, I hope the day comes when things get easier for you. Even if just a bit. And if you are desiring, I hope the day comes when you get satisfaction, even if that looks different than what you originally envisioned. Most of all, I want you to know that breathing, being alive, is worth it. You are here for something no one else in this world can do. Be more you. Be too much. Because being all you is gorgeous. And I’m here for all of that, all of you.

Big love,
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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