No Reservation About Having an OCD Overreaction

OCD and a standard human reaction do not always show up in the same scenario – at least not in my house. While I maintain a fierce disdain for dishonesty, I often find that my tolerance for true honesty can be much much lower.

In all fairness to me, it’s not the candor that gets under my skin. Rather it’s the absolute blunt format of said perspective. This is doubly ironic (and some might add seriously hypocritical) given that I am nothing if not utterly and hopelessly unfiltered in 99.9999% of my own responses.

I don’t want to be angry with He Who Shall Not Be Named (a.k.a. He Who Will Be Sleeping On The Sofa If He Keeps Giving Unfiltered Opinions), but I’m fairly irritated at the moment. We just moved into this home a few weeks ago and have been up to our eyeballs with the glories of life a la moving boxes. OCD and decorating are great when you have endless time and money falling out of your a-haul. But if they aren’t, arranging and designing your home become more stressors on the OCD hyper-focus list.

So when I finally extricated all things Christmas from my shelves and living room this evening, I decided to take a first run at the fireplace mantle. This is a major focal point in my unschooled designer brain, and I always make several attempts at this before I get settled. It’s never perfect on round one nor is it there by round ten.

However that doesn’t mean that I’m ever going to respond lightly to a casual spousal comment that uses an excited tone combined with the words, “Wow! That really jumps out at you. Those sticks look like a big scary tree!”

Shut. Yo. Face.

Did he talk smack about my mama? No. Did he mention how nice it would be if I could still wear the same pants I wore when we first met (or even two years ago…)? The local news would be covering my reaction to that one if he had, but no. Never that. He just made a doofy comment about the stupid sticks on the mantle. And he wasn’t wrong.

But was this his first day with me? Nope. Hadn’t he learned from the other ten zillion overreactions that I had displayed in response to countless other uncensored observations that that kind of sh@! wouldn’t be missing any of the surrounding fans if he spoke the words aloud rather than retaining them in his noggin where they belonged? Apparently not.

Incredibly (to me) he was thoroughly annoyed that he couldn’t just “make a comment” without sending me into a redesign overhaul frenzy. I spent another hour + fixing sticks in a jar. Yes. Frickin sticks. And frankly I’m still completely dissatisfied with them. Forget the mismatched candles or the hearth accents that aren’t at all what I want. It’s the damn sticks. I need them for height. They keep a natural feel while providing a visual balance to the other accents on the shelves flanking the mantle. Except this one isn’t the right size and that one is too dark and this one is a smidge too tall and and and…

This kind of stuff – my frenzied reactions – irritate him, but his annoyance doesn’t compare to how truly maddening my responses are to me. And this is where I step back to observe the whole scenario via the “Rational Person Watching the OCD Behavior from the Outside” mirror.

It really is unnerving. Although his comment could have been delivered in a smoother way, he wasn’t speaking with unkindness. Bad judgement call on his part? Yes. Mean intentions? Not in the slightest. And there were too many sticks, and they were too tall. I could see that, too.

Why did his innocuous comment send me into redesign overdrive? Why does my mind have zero reservations about responding this way whenever my feelings get slightly ruffled? I’m not bothered that he made the comment. At that moment, he was wearing a white undershirt, ratty shorts, grandpa slippers, and tall dark socks – clearly this level of fashion underscores his unwavering commitment to design and style in his own life so his decor critique must be without question as well. I’m just frustrated that I internalized and, maybe more accurately, externalized it in such an irrational way.

I struggle deeply with futile attempts to rein in these responses. My grandiose and inexplicable attempts to dispel inordinate levels of frustration are by no means limited to reactions to my husband’s comments. He just happens to be the primary owner of the never ending season pass to the MoJo Show, and that buys him a front row seat to the madness. For the vast majority of the rest of the world, the bulk of my idiosyncratic backlash typically stays hidden behind the scenes.  But it’s still there regardless just waiting to flip into action.

Thankfully for me, my husband seems to have accepted it all with relative indifference coupled with a head shake and an eyeroll, and thankfully for him, he has stopped giving design feedback for the evening. The candles, hearth, and shelves still await further modifications, but I would wager that I will receive no further commentary based on the Great Stick Mania of 2018. I would feel sorry for him, but seriously man – choose your words and then speak them. After almost twenty years, you should know how this dance is going to go.

At the end of the day, we all have some fault in our character that we would love to wash away – an imperfection in our facade, a peccadillo in our personality – but the people who matter will recognize that the rough moments pale in comparison to the true beauty within you. Relationships aren’t meant to be perfect, and we have to accept that they will have their ups and downs. The same is true for our own mental and emotional states – no perfection or endless smooth sailing to be found there either.

But my sticks are perfect dammit. So at least we have that.

Happy new year to all of you! May your year be full of joy and blessings. May you always find the humor in yourself and in those around you. And above all, may you find the right sized sticks should you decide to attempt to arrange them on your mantle.

Much love to you. ❤️  Jo

Reservation

Christmas Flu By

I can’t remember a Christmas when I haven’t felt a bittersweet sadness at the end of the day. Whenever this time has rolled around, I have always found myself feeling a little blue that the presents have been opened, the family events have come to a close, and the lovely decorations celebrating the reason for it all have worn out their welcome and will soon find themselves on the fast track to attic central.

However this year has officially allowed me to confirm that having 100% of your family of five simultaneously sporting a nasty flu infection for the big celebration weekend will move you right past bittersweet sentiments and straight into exhausted relief. I have also confirmed that this flu virus was the worst family gift. Ever.

Bleh and yuck.

I heard the words ‘Choose Joy’ countless times over my radio throughout this holiday season, and every single time, I wanted to throw a reindeer at the announcer. If I could find joy, wouldn’t I have opted for that right out of the gate??? Clearly it wasn’t that easy. I tried. I just couldn’t find it. And having a houseful of extremely sick humans didn’t exactly check any boxes off of my Christmas weekend wish list either.

But the strangest thing has happened. Right now in these last few minutes of Christmas, despite all of the disappointment of the past few days, I am surprised and truly grateful to feel my natural fondness for Christmas returning home to my heart where it belongs. It is familiar, and as always, is a love that easily surpasses my affection for any other time of the year. I am writing this by the fire in my living room as my family members are asleep in their beds. In this moment, there is a beautiful peacefulness. A stillness. The holiness of this day is palpable, and I can understand with perfect clarity how truly blessed we are.

There are joys to be found even in the heaviest times of our lives. We shouldn’t berate ourselves when we can’t find the light in the darkness, but we should celebrate every moment of it whenever we have clarity.

We have so much to be thankful for, but we become infected by so many things – illness, loneliness, hurt, worry, fear. They drag us down, and we feel so lost. Nevertheless we are stronger than we could ever imagine, and we never walk the path alone.

Christmas transcends the presents, the get togethers, the decorations, and most certainly the flu. It’s not about the day or the month or the season. It is about light, it is about hope, and it is about love. Those are the true gifts, and they are very, very real.

I pray that you feel the light, hope, and love that surround you always, and I pray that you cherish the true beauty of all around you and all within you.

Merry Christmas and blessings to you.  Jo

Cherish

Anxiety Overload – From the Chaos to the Calling

At least I’m not talking to my Christmas lights. (Yet…)

As much as I have written about depression, OCD and anxiety, I actually struggle to write about these issues when I find myself working through a down cycle. The raw truth is that when I am in this place in my thoughts and feelings, I feel immensely insecure. I don’t want to respond to questions asking me how I’m doing. I don’t want to have the conversations confirming that I’m alright. It embarrasses me to be asked about it, and ultimately, I truly am okay.

However I’m writing about it tonight because years ago, I would not have been able to say with any sincerity that I knew that I would bounce back and that solid ground was in my future. I clawed onto any shred of hope that I could muster that life might get better. In my darkest moments, I hungered to trust in the possibilities of tomorrow yet failed to detect any light ahead. I gave up.

And yet I’m still here.

Despite my reticence to admit that I’m  struggling today, I feel called to write about it. I won’t bother listing my garbage du jour (and that’s just as well given that the internet would run out of room), but the snapshot summary is that I’m feeling overwhelmed beyond words.

While moments like these bring my feelings of self-doubt and utter imperfection to center stage, I now recognize that these negative sentiments are deceptive and that they cloud my perception. With a little time, these feelings will pass, and I will find sure footing once more.

Heavy emotions, insecurity, loneliness, extreme frustration, and sentiments of absolute hopelessness are not reserved for people who have been classified as having depression, OCD, anxiety, etc. Those bad boys are fair game for any human out there. Being in one or all of those emotional and mental places doesn’t mean that you are a lost cause who is screwed up beyond repair. It simply means that you are dealing with a heavy load, and in the immortal (and slightly paraphrased) words of Cousin Eddie, your mental and emotional shi**er is full.

I have found that my roughest moments tend to proceed tremendous positive reversals. It’s as if the universe sends us on a downward trajectory to provide a clear contrast when we strike the inflection point. We are able to shift from the downward spiral to a totally different and powerful direction. The difficult moments do not define us but those same occurrences can refine us. We are strengthened by our experiences – all of them. We discover who we are and what we can achieve. The chaos turns to clarity. But you have to allow time for that to happen even when you think that you are down and out.

Keep going. Do what you can no matter how small it may be. Try to have faith that you are where you are supposed to be despite appearances. If you can’t muster faith, aim for hope. And if that can’t be found either, just stick with holding on. It will get better. It always does.

Hang in there darling friends. Big hugs to you all. And yes I’m truly ok. It’s just been a dirty Santa beard in your smoked salmon kind of week. Oh well.   😉  Jo

e95d53f3d2c6fa0a7f8bc7dae19231e2.jpg

Calling

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Tuesday – Can You Relate?

sara with santa

This is the picture I took of my daughter with Santa last year (classic!).  Ironically it also happens to be a good representation of how I have felt this holiday season. (less classic!)

I’m simultaneously relieved and annoyed to confess that I finally finished decorating the Christmas trees and living room shelves this past weekend – one pitiful week before Christmas. Well…maybe “finished” isn’t the most accurate word to use in my current scenario. The real dish is that I grew tired of stepping around / stumbling over countless half empty boxes of ornaments and kitschy holiday decor, so I asked my husband to lug the remaining items to the attic.  Out of sight, out of sight.  (Clearly it’s not out of mind, but at least it isn’t underfoot either.)

I just can’t seem to muster my standard over the top holiday cheer.  I don’t feel depressed, but I would liken my level of Christmas spirit to that of a wet sock – albeit a clean wet sock, but a wet sock nonetheless.

People always complain about how Christmas has become so commercialized, but that has never fazed me.  I’m much more bothered by the excessive commercialization of Star Wars.  Must every car, soup, and dog food ad have a storm trooper?  I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if I saw a commercial for maxi-pads that were stamped with a rebel logo.  (Yes, I do recognize that this is an absurd thought.  Clearly maxi-pads would only be stamped with the imperial logo.  We all know that maxi-pads are strictly zoned for the dark side.)

This is a strange feeling for me, but I just can’t get excited about Christmas this year.  I hear carolers on the radio demanding figgy pudding or else they won’t go, and I want to tell them where to stick their freaky treat.  Also just to clarify – is this a European thing?  What the eff is figgy pudding?  And why won’t they go until they get it?  Does it have addictive properties?  No.  Don’t tell me.  If you know, I suspect that you are also competent in the art of making fruitcake and will argue fiercely that it’s a delicacy.  I’m not saying that your opinion on the whole fruitcake business is wrong.  Unless you want to tell me that it is good.  And to that I tell you this –  Fruitcake = No.  Also you are wrong.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m tremendously grateful for the incredible blessings that have been bestowed on my family.  Truly.  However it has been a challenging few months, and I’m seriously run into the ground.  I just need a break from _____.  <— This is like Mad Libs.  Fill in any word at all in this blank, and I would like a break from it.

With all of that said, I am attempting to exit the writing stalemate that I have found myself in over the past few weeks.  Apologies for the re-entry ramble.  It feels like I’m working through the funk and have to find the mojo in MoJo once more.  I also apologize for my non-response to comments.  I’ll get my behind back in gear on that, too.  As I have said before, I disappear for extensive periods sometimes.  It’s not intended to offend nor is it reflective of a lack of affection.  Sometimes I just need to work through wherever I’m at in a given time, and my silence tends to be the ultimate clue that this is what is happening in my world at that moment.  Please know that my own husband has begged me for years to stop talking so much.  He would tell you that you should actually be thanking me.  So on that note, you’re welcome.

I sincerely hope that your holiday season has been lovely so far and that the beauty of this time of year has truly found you.  If it has, I would love to hear about it, but if it hasn’t, feel free to pull up a chair and give me the skinny on the fruitcake of a holiday you are feeling this year, too.  While I hope that you can’t relate to these same grinchy sentiments, I do wonder how many of you are picking up what I’m putting down because your tinsel feels like it’s hanging a little off-kilter this year, too.

Nevertheless, I send best wishes and love to you always dear friends.  Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and holiday blessings to you all!  Joanna

Relate

A Snowball’s Chance – Christmas Magic

Fulshear Run snow

My absence from writing has been a frustrating consequence of the incessant activities consuming me over the past couple of weeks.  We have been moving into a new home, prepping the former home for showings post-move, unpacking unpacking unpacking, and dealing with the countless other realities that come with working, parenting, and holiday-ing.  I have wacky stories to go with each of those items, but the current skinny is this – I’m just too darn tired to elaborate tonight.  To put it simply, the past few weeks have been extremely taxing both emotionally and physically.  I have been worn paper-thin, and it has seemed as though I have been unable to see the light behind the clouds.

But then came the snow.  The spectacularly beautiful and impossible snow.

When you live in the Houston area, Christmas weather typically means something below 80 degrees hopefully.  A few days ago, temperatures were actually above those levels.  Christmastime in tank tops and shorts – bleh – I loathe that.  But then there was a cold front.  A fantastically wonderful freeze your bum and your toes kind of cold front.  And with it came sheer magic!

As tired as I was, I stayed up most of that night watching the snow fall out my bedroom window.  It was too beautiful and rare, and I refused to miss it.  I woke my children up before the sun to make sure that we would have time to play in it before we had to head to school and work.  In truth I really wanted the whole family to play hooky all day, but it just wasn’t possible.  No matter.  We still found time to completely freeze our toes off and have a total blast.  It was utterly unexpected, incredibly special, and definitely a day for the memory books.

Seeing our new backyard transformed into a true winter wonderland felt like a refresher for my soul.  It reminded me that unexpected and wonderful magic is always possible.  We may feel like we are trapped in a situation we can’t change, but the truth is that we don’t know what spectacular realities are right around the corner.

Although I’m still exhausted to my core, I can sense the light behind the clouds peeking through once more.  At a minimum, I finally located the moving box that held the bulk of my underwear, so that seems like a good baseline for a turnaround.  If God can send loads of snow and undies my way in the same weekend, I’m hopeful that the miracle train is running in full steam and taking care of all of the things that I can’t.  I pray that my spirits will ascend in turn and that I will have the clarity to honor the beauty of this time.

I pray that you feel the magic of this season as well darling friends.  No matter what you believe, it truly is out there for all of us.  Sending prayers for your happiness and health now and always.

In love and light – Joanna

 
Ascend

Searching for the Faint Hint of Light in the Loneliness of Depression

Over the past few weeks, I have been finding myself in an increasing number of conversations that are thick with heavy emotions. So many people have swallowed their words and their pain about the mental health issues that have ravaged their families and their lives. These individuals seem fine at a glance, but the reality is that they are drowning on the inside. The perfect (and false) vision of life on social media creates a deceiving veil that obscures the pervasive struggles of depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, and suicide. And if you are dealing with any of those challenges, it can make you feel even more broken when you scroll through the endless joy that seems to be the norm from the vast majority of those around you.

socks

I wanted to get the beach in the pic, but all these darn laundry baskets were in the way. Also I had to get to work, so I couldn’t leave reality to head to the beach. One day, I’m going to take these laundry baskets to the beach. They desperately need a break, too.

Based on the posts and photos you see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., standard daily life should always include high levels of problem-free and adorable children, fluffy puppies galore, hundreds of birthday wishes from innumerable e-friends (many of whom also leave me contemplating my annual questions of “What does that person look like and how do I know him or her???”), and random pictures of feet taken by lovely pools and beaches (because seeing your feet in the pic really sells me on the beauty of your vacation). And on that note, please stop doing that. I don’t need to see your hobbit feet. I already know that you are there because you took the pic. Including your feet in the shot does not make me say, “Hey, I recognize those hairy toes! You really are there!”

The truth is that life isn’t always smooth sailing, and despite the evidence that you are presented with online, a striking number of those same people are also trying desperately to find their way back to solid mental health. They just don’t talk about it. When you find yourself facing depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, or suicidal thoughts and actions, you feel so very isolated. You search frantically for any faint hint of light in the darkness of those moments. And when those moments turn from minutes to hours and sometimes from days to years, it truly seems like it will never end. In those times, you feel like no one else has been as messed up as you are right then. If there were Screwed Up Human Olympics, you would run the table at the games and easily pocket the gold, silver, and bronze medals. Team MoJo for the win!

I have lost many friends over the years due to my tendency to go radio silent when I am navigating those rough waters. I disappear and shut people out whenever I am trying to work through challenges that are consuming me. Part of me knows that most wouldn’t judge me for struggling, but another part just won’t allow a public viewing of that much of my raw and utter imperfection (hot mess central, totally unable to cope, emotional tornado action, scared little kid trapped in a less little grown up body – that kind of stuff).

Shutting other people out to limit further emotional damage is a common behavior for people who are hurting. Unfortunately it also happens to be a highly flawed coping mechanism. The reality is that I still miss many of those people that I lost in those times. They never knew why I disappeared, and I could never find the strength to explain what was going on or the right words to fix the hurt after I was in a better place. It’s not my favorite set of experiences to contemplate, but to everything there is a season, and sometimes, you just have to release the past.

Isolating yourself creates a frustrating complication of the issues and ultimately exacerbates the problems. If we could be more honest about our struggles, we would discover that so many other people around us are dealing with the same challenges as well. If we can gather enough courage to speak up when we or our family members are falling down, we would be surprised to learn that our true friends are willing and often able to genuinely assist us.  They keep the conversations going, allow us to see that we are not the only ones having a hard time, get us out of the house and out of the ruts we find ourselves trapped in, and remind us about how totally dorky we are for taking pics of our feet while still completely loving us anyway.

You may be lucky and find a way out of the darkness all by your lonesome, but you don’t have to go that route, and the odds of recovery are wildly better if you seek help from others. Let people into your world. Please note that I did not say, “Drag other people into your world.” If you have to drag them, you are barking up the wrong friend. I’m talking about surrounding yourself with people who are able to hear you and who want to listen in a supportive way. Also do yourself a favor and step away from negative social media. If you go the other direction and find that you are fixated on comparing your life to other people’s fluffy stuff, just remember that you are going to have a hard time finding their “So I totally vomited after my kids saw my husband and me in a terrible fight this morning. I am praying that they stopped crying once they got into school, that my marriage will last, and that my stomach bug goes away soon!” post. No one shows that crap off to the world, but everyone has those days. Those people need your shoulder, too. We all feel excruciatingly deep pain sometimes, and that doesn’t make you broken or weird. It makes you normal.

I know what it feels like to lose hope, but I have found mine again. For anyone who is still searching, I’ve got your back. I have stockpiled more than enough for all of us and know that it can and will get better. The darkness will fade, and your joy will return. You are so important, and you are amazing and perfect just as you are.

Allow those who care about you to hold your hand and your heart. They truly can help you find that faint hint of light in the darkness, and eventually, the light will outshine the darkness altogether. There will still be ups and downs, but life will get dramatically better if you let that happen.

Recognize when you need help, and be honest about what you are going through. Let the people who matter into your world.

Love and light always – Joanna

Faint

Female Body Changes and the Mystery of Metabolism that Appears to be Asleep at the Wheel

Ok so maybe all of this facial hair isn’t entirely mine (but maybe some is). Also it’s possible that today is Halloween.

While I have zero issue with plastic surgery for other people, I find that it doesn’t really appeal to me on a personal level (today). With that said, there are elements of aging that are seriously less than fabulous. I don’t mind getting older from a number stand point. I just never realized that cosmic humor would require all of the numbers that pertain to my body to join in on the joke.

I went to see the doctor for a routine check-up. While I was there, I thought that perhaps the scale was pulling an excessively early April Fool’s Day joke on me. It wasn’t. The weight in question was shocking to me and is not a number that bears repeating. Ironically it is a number that a bear might weigh if she did happen to get on that same scale, too.

As a bonus I was in the perfect sunlight at another point and noticed something gleaming in my view. It took me a moment to realize that a long thin fuzzy hair had landed on my face. Another unhappy moment later led me to discover that I was a bit off the mark on my original assessment. The fuzzy didn’t land there. It was trying to escape my face. What the eff?  When did I turn into a she-wolf?

It’s tough to feel pretty when your youthful bod has gone on vacay and left you and your bat wing arms dangling behind. It frustrates me immensely and leaves me scratching my beard. Although I love naughty food, it doesn’t seem to matter what I eat. I’ve tried changing the menu significantly, yet I still remain un-thin but with a serious hangryover. If I exercise, I get even hungrier, so I eat more and end up bumping up my calorie count to offset the activity increase.

Please don’t even mention salads. I like real people food. The only salads I enjoy are less like salads and more like bread-free sandwiches. The others with all veggies plus a side of more veggies never leave me satiated. Man cannot live on kale alone, and even if he (she) could, why would one ever want to try???

I will keep attending to my increasing presence of sasquatch chic body flair as I continue to strive for a way to solve my “how to achieve a healthier lifestyle by eating cheesecake” mystery. I know that I could maintain that approach if it was an option. Maybe I will give kale another try. Ha! Not! But I suppose that there are other veggies that I could purchase (yet again) and actually eat this time (ideally before they sprout mini-gardens of their own).

Thankfully I don’t have any major negative temptations in the house at the moment because it’s Halloween and every person in America gives out celery and protein powder. Also the holidays are quickly approaching, and that’s always a great time to shed the excess fluff.

Despite my snark, I do need to figure out a way to get motivated. I may be able to pick up Thor’s hammer, but I think the real challenge is going to be putting down Jo’s fork. Sigh.

Lentils and lettuce always – Joanna

Mystery

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