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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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trees are sanctuaries

Trees have always been a muse for me. Perhaps a Patronus of sorts. They have saved me and loved me and kept me happy when no other thing could. Trees are sacred to my soul.

 

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

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

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

― Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

 

 

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we are magic

Hey there, my friends! Did you miss me? Well, I missed you, too. <smoooooch!> It’s been a busy week- I’ve been sick (thank you JesusBuddha for antibiotics!) and life has just been it’s regular old self- happening.

I wanted to check in and say hello and leave you with something to think about. I’m taking a Divination course with Megan Potter over at LimitlessLiving and she shared this quote with us last week. It’s good to chew on, not only in terms of magic and divination, but also in terms of just who we are and how we use ourselves in the world (and maybe who we want to be).

 

In magic we don’t speculate, we don’t judge, we don’t doubt, we don’t exalt ourselves or lower ourselves. In magic we just ARE. And as we are, we act.

Successful magic is all about doing. Not thinking. And not feeling either. Magic is about doing and observing what you do and what others do. But the condition is that this observation must be exercised from the perspective of detachment. We use feeling as fuel for our magic, but the condition for successful magic is that you are not attached to your fuel… You are fully magical when you’re above judgement and evaluation of any kind. In magic you ride the wave of intention, as your intention aligns with the act of surrendering to the powers that be.”

| Camelia Elias |

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

I was also reminded this week that smashing our altars is a good practice now and then. To take our spiritual practice out into the actual world and refuse to believe or act in ways that ‘spiritual’ is better or different than ‘real life.’ Because it ain’t.

Love you, fellow travelers.
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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America is a 15 year-old boy

Specifically, a 15 year-old cis, hetero boy. And one who needs to get his shit together.

I should have written this post months ago. And that fact that I’m still capable of writing it- because nothing of significance has changed – kinda pisses me off. Alas…we’re here and there’s nothing to do but accept it.

Think of each country in the world as a person unto itself. We might imagine Ireland as a beautiful red-headed woman of about 30 years. She’s been through some violent growth spurts, raging inside herself to decide who really rules her, but she’s finally come to peace in the last few years. We can imagine England as a an older man, still white and cranky, but not so hell-bent on penis-waving conquering as he was in his 20s. (I think of England in its empire-building stage very much like Maverick from “Top Gun”- ready to prove its superiority at every turn, no matter the cost. These are simplified metaphors in many ways, but still valuable for examination and insight purposes, I think.)

And then there’s America. How can we tell America is a 15 year-old boy and not something else? We look at American culture and see: what does America like? What does it value? Uphold? You can tell a lot by what a culture produces and prefers- just like what a person produces and prefers.

Kardashians.
Sex.
It could give a shit about education or facts.
Addiction, and social circumstances that cause a fuck ton of depression.
Lack of critical thinking skills.
Prefers short-term solutions.
Political masturbation of the lowest sort.
Personal (white) supremacy. In other words, ‘if they ain’t me, fuck ’em.’
A distinct lack of wisdom.
Blaming others for its circumstances.
Just wants to go fast and fuck.
Playing power games with bravado and stupidity.
Easily entertained with bright lights and not much substance.
Heroics instead of actual care.
Lack of compassion.

[[I apologize to 15 year-old boys who don’t fit this mold; I know your smart, compassionate selves are out there.]]

And you can most certainly tell that America is a 15 year-old cis-het boy because a significant portion of the electorate felt Donald Trump was a good leader. A man who said so little of substance that everyone could project their hopes and ideas on him- and look at what they projected. Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, class warfare, and white supremacy for miiiiles.

We’re kinda disgusting. And I say “we’re” on purpose- because even if we didn’t vote for the Trashman, we are part of this culture and contributing to it with our every decision and indecision. Unless we are actively fighting it, we’re contributing to it. And I include myself in that judgement.

 

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

 

Here’s the thing, though. America has a better side. It has a better persona that is fighting to make its way out. Which is also how we know America is a 15 year-old; it’s still deciding who it is, and probably will be for a while.

What I know about the other side of America is that it is a side that it holds the opposite of most the qualities I listed previously.

The other side of America, the side that is fighting for its very breath, is so much better. It contains a lot of white supremacy still, but it also contains:

Compassion.
Acceptance of science and facts.
It reads books.
It imagines.
It’s gone to therapy for its issues.
It has broken, wailed, and healed- it knows the path of growth.
It knows that the value + integration of diversity and equality are necessary.
It might like sex, but it asks for consent.
It values transparency, vulnerability, and honesty.
It takes responsibility for its actions.
It seeks long-term solutions that are both efficient and effective for the Earth and its people.
It applies wisdom.
It upholds the feminine.
It doesn’t put up with immature bullshit.

There are people fighting daily to keep this America alive inside the body of the 15 year-old boy version of America. It’s a hard fucking fight- most especially for those who are fighting despite marginalization and resources withheld by policy and policing (and they are often the groups fighting the hardest. A lot of white ladies who marched in pink hats last January are still stepping on the necks of black women).

Here’s the thing about 15 year-old boys, though- nobody really wants to be around a kid like this. Most (not all, but many) other countries have gotten past this age and while they will nod and smile, they’re not about to let this dolt do any damage to the greater good of the planet (thank god). And 15 year-old boy America can stand around and swing its dick everywhere, but eventually everyone gets tired of the show (and really, 15 year-old dicks have no useful experience to offer us anyhow).

I believe that the majority of America, who voted for ‘not Trashman,’ have the upper hand and will eventually win out. It may take a while to undo the pissing contest mess that’s been created in a single year, but I trust it will be done. And I trust that actual jobs bills will be passed and single-payer healthcare will finally get rooted, and maybe even basic income will become a national thing. Because the one thing about fighting with ourselves is that we either die psychologically in the process (which would be fine, we can begin all over again, in that case) or the more evolved side wins out (check your personal experience with 15 year-old boys and see if I’m not right). Human culture always wants to move itself forward, and so I trust in that.

In the mean time, give yourself to the fight for America to grow up and get its shit together as often as you can. Our daily choices spread out beyond us in the same way that stones dropped in a lake make waves and eventually change the shoreline. America can be something smarter, more compassionate and fair, and a good person in the world again. I believe that because I know the sorts of people who fight for this- we are healed, we are aware, we are compassionate and intelligent. And there are more of us.

I’ll leave you with the words of our great leader, Beyonce: boy, bye.

 

 

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2018 :: insights. integrations. experiments.

[I started this post at 10 am on 01-01-18. It’s taken me all day to finish. Which says something about how the day has gone. Thanks for being patient with a very late post.]

Hello, fellow travelers. How are you on this first day of 2018? Is it a big celebration day for you? Or is it just another day, except now you have to write 2-0-1-8 instead of 2-0-1-7?

The first day of the year is kind of big deal for me. I was talking with my husband about it- he wondered why January 1st was more interesting to me than December 22nd – the day after Solstice and the beginning of the awakening of the season of light. I had to think about my answer.

Numbers are a beautiful language to me and so the change from 2017 to 2018 is significant in a way I feel inside myself- just a little shift in energy, a shift in the language, that makes me feel a tiny bit different. Some people don’t register this at all- but it shifts something inside me.

Truth be told, the point in the ‘new year’ where I feel alive and dedicated to something actually starts on the Spring Equinox- that’s when Life is starting to push its way up into visibility. So, what I’m doing now, in the dark of Winter, is more like planting seeds, knowing they will come up at some point. Even though the days are getting lighter by degrees, it’s still dark, still winter, and I think it’s good to stay low, quiet, and comfy. There will be time for rising and working and shining soon enough. But, yes, the change of the calendar does put me in a mood to take the small actions that will bear fruit later on.

 

 

Which is to say, I do set intentions for the new year. But I also know that changing my life requires actual fucking work and action, so I better be prepared to put my time, effort, and attitude behind what I want to accomplish.

Before we head into what I’m hoping to accomplish this year, I want to talk about some things I’ve learned about myself this year.

:: insights ::

In 2016 I learned that sometimes I have to let go of people because caring for them is hurting me. I have a huge heart, I love to love people- to let them know they are special, loved, and important to this world; I love to help people heal and feel strong and sure again. But there have been a few times when I’ve let that go too far and ended up hurting myself instead- giving too much. In 2016, I learned to let go of things and people and experiences that hurt that way.

In 2017, I learned that letting go is sometimes more complicated than that. Sometimes letting go means I am keeping someone else from hurting- that my attention and care might actually hurt another person. It’s weird to say such a thing, I know, but that makes it no less true. I learned to get better at cutting off one-sided relationships (but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt any less) and also to keep people safe from me by burning bridges or pushing them away. And that letting go is a multi-faceted decision sometimes.

[And also- I just suck at letting people go. I want to love people, so much. And if I can’t, letting them go is like the worst roller coaster ride ever. It takes time and it’s up and down and I just suck at it. I don’t know that I want to get better at it- I don’t want my heart to harden. But also…gah…it hurts to fight yourself for what you want but know you can’t have.]

This year I learned how and when to take risks. I don’t like taking risks, they scare me to death, but I will do it if there is some assurance of a good outcome. But this Fall I learned to risk even if I have no idea of the outcome. I learned to risk just because I desired something. And it’s thrilling, but it also pushed huge amounts of cortisol into my system and wrecked my adrenals. Still, it was worth it for what I learned and what I got out of it.

I learned that I can speak to a group of 200 people if I feel comfortable with the topic and have a decent outline for the content, but that if you get me into a 1:1 conversation that I care about a lot, I turn into a spaghetti ball of anxiety. And not a nice one that sits on a plate and just spreads, but rather a spaghetti ball that is dropping through air and quickly falling apart – at least that’s what it felt like on the inside. I’ve never experienced that before. But then, I’ve never taken that high of a risk before. Scary as fuck. Did it anyway. Learned a lot.

I was reminded, once again, that the heart is a house with many rooms. And you never know who or what will take up residence within our heart, or exactly how they will occupy the space. I also learned that I can lie to myself about what I feel for or want from people. And this is something I have to be very careful of from now on. Desire is sometimes full of surprises.

2017 also taught me that I can be tough as nails when needed, and also so overwhelmed that I fall apart. I’m not good at falling apart- I’m the strong one- but it happened this summer and I learned a lot from the experience. I know that I would like to prevent falling apart in the future, but even if I can’t, I can do it with a tiny bit more grace in the future. I hope.

I learned a really unexpected thing about myself in the last two months- that I don’t mind being sexually objectified as long as I’m sexually objectifying the other person, too. If someone is creepy, projecting their shit on me, or I don’t find them attractive, then I will create a boundary with the quickness. And- I would much rather be found sexually attractive and be interesting as a whole person (waaaaay preferable), but…I’m okay with mutual sexual objectification. I thought I was better than that, but I’m not.

I think it’s important to point out that I am a BIG believer in the idea that we never really ‘lose’ in Life. We either win or we learn. Yes, several times this year I wanted something big and didn’t get it. But what I do get is the opportunity to learn from my intentions and mistakes and try to get better (for if there is a next time) or be better then it’s still a ‘win’ to me. Which brings me to the next section: intentions.

 

i did some kitchen magic, too.

 

:: intentions and integrations ::

Based somewhat on the previous insights, but also on what I’ve learned from just watching my actions this year, I have intentions and things I want to grow and integrate into my life.

My intentions this year are thus:

consistent meditation and spiritual nourishment practice.

Spiritual nourishment is different for everyone. For me it means meditating for 15 minutes 5 days a week (no less than 4, for sure). Meditation keeps my head right, gives me stress resiliency, and makes me less of a bitch. I lost the habit over the summer and it’s really obvious that it’s time for me to get back to it. I have a longer spiritual nourishment practice that involves dancing + music + intuition + prayer and I also need to get back to that. Music really is my soul and my direction and without it I am not as whole as I could be.

 

less social media; more reading.

I barely read any books last year and that’s a damn shame. Granted, it was a kind of difficult and crappy year in many respects, but I don’t have that excuse any longer. Time to get my brain into a healthier place.

 

get to bed on time. 

I’m doing this one not only because I know it will calm down my cortisol, but also because there are a lot of guilt-inducing voices in my head that complain – at several levels – when I don’t get to bed on time. I can avoid the shitty voices if I just get to sleep. Also: fucking sleep! It’s a gift! I need it.

 

do more of the work I’m good at. 

I am really good at helping people, healing broken things and people, finding lost things and souls- I simply need to do more of it. Not sure what this will look like, but I’m ready to grow into it.

 

:: experiments ::

Intentions and resolutions aren’t for everyone, so I really like the idea from Amy McCracken on Facebook about experiments.

“What if instead of giant resolutions you conducted 12 mini experiments to find out if what you tell yourself is true when you think *if I just _______, my life would be different.

I asked a question on Facebook a couple of weeks ago because I wanted to know if I was the only person in the world who did this.

‘Legit question. I want to know if you do this to yourself. It’s for an experiment. Trust me. Do you have a list of things (or one thing) you tell yourself if you did that thing your life would be different? For instance, ‘If I did yoga every day, I swear my life would be different.’ If I ate fruits and vegetables, I am convinced my life would be different… Anything at all. What is it you tell yourself when you fill in these blanks: If I _____ every day, I think my life would be different.”

If I…
meditated
journaled
exercised
flossed
did yoga
studied
cleaned
played
got more sleep
practiced gratitude
made art
…I think my life would be different/better.

LET’S CALL OUR BLUFF. Let’s make our list of things we think will change our lives. And let’s put them to the test in month-long experiments. do one thing for a month. Everyday.

If it changes your life, holy shit, you’ve changed your life.

If it doesn’t, let that shit go. Once and for all. Never tell yourself that THAT one thing you are NOT doing would make you better. Done. Cross it off the list.

You don’t have to do an experiment every month. I actually hope that there are not 12 things on your list (there are on mine). You don’t have to do anything at all, ever, especially not because I’m proposing it. And you certainly don’t have to spill the beans about what you are committing to for 30 days.”

I love this. A way to let ourself off the hook from grand gestures and really find out what our life is about. What will really change us? What are we really committed to? Growth-junkie me digs this.

In many ways my intentions are these kinds of experiments. But I know I also want to try some new things in 2018. I want to:

  • take a boxing class. mostly I want to wrap my hands with that cool tape and hit things.
  • take a dancing class. burlesque. belly dancing. some kind of modern exercise dance thing. i don’t care, I just wanna move my body in new ways.
  • try rowing. this past summer I stayed in a house where rowers came by in the morning and evening and it looked both exciting and peaceful. i wanna find out for myself.

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

One of the things I know about Life now is that we can make intentions and resolutions and goals- and even reach them- but Life always also has its own agenda for us. We will have lessons thrown at us that we didn’t expect in any given year- and how we deal with them can teach us a lot. I hope that your 2018 is filled with all the good things you hope for. And when it also hands you the difficult tasks, I hope you find courage and patience and self-forgiveness to deal with them.

All my love, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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