Stop Waiting for Heaven

Originally posted in lifeinthespectrum.com.

I am not one to push my faith on anyone. Simply put, it’s not my style. Furthermore, I believe that we are all given a chance to have our own journey and that includes our walks (stumbles / face-splats) of faith.

However I have no reticence about sharing my belief that you do not have to wait for heaven to experience it. My halo has yet to exit the angelic assembly line nor have all those harp lessons paid off to date (probably because I never attended or signed up for any). But I know when I’m in a moment that is so surreal and spectacular that I can sense I beautiful imprint of that moment on my soul.

This can happen when I see something extremely special to me like watching my husband and children walk onto the same little island that I visited as a child and that my father visited when he was young. More often than not, it will happen in the most insignificant and unlikely of times. Being together for a low rent meal. Laughing hysterically during family game day. Being collectively thrilled at watching the raccoons squabble over peanuts outside our window at night.

It’s the smallest of the small stuff, but the magic is immeasurably great. I want to bottle up those feelings so I can access them whenever I forget. And I do forget. Constantly. By the hour kind of constantly. Probably more often than that.

But when I get out of my way and can see the beauty of the moment, I can recognize that it’s there all the time. Clearly I don’t have the full deets on what will happen once I discard this sweet meat suit o’ mine, but I sincerely believe that any version of heaven would have to incorporate these moments of tremendous wonder and feelings of boundless love.

Feel free to plan to take up permanent residence in heaven after you are gone. Just don’t forget to notice the divine perfection that is all around you while you are here, too. You don’t have to live a life of perfection to be able to find the celestial magnificence that fills every corner of our existence. I’m a prime example of utter imperfection in action yet moments of paradise reveal themselves every day nonetheless.

Notice them. Appreciate them. Allow them to remind you if the spectacular soul who you truly are. And if along the way you do happen to find a way to bottle them up, please drop me a line. We could all use a little more Heaven ready and waiting in the wings. ūüėáūüźÜ

Much love to you.

Jo

Originally posted in lifeinthespectrum.com.

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 Рbleh РI 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

Have Faith in Yourself – Remove the Mask

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I often tell my children that no one gives as much thought to their insecurities as they do. No other people are panicking about a blemish on someone else’s face. Nobody else stresses if another person gets a stain on their shirt during the day. Those moments of imperfection make my children feel like they are under the magnifying glass of their peers, but the reality is that those incidences are quickly replaced by alternate distractions and concerns of other people. I tell my kids all of this, and I remind them that no one is perfect. We all have embarrassing stuff, and we all carry insecurities. They don’t have to hide who they are ever. It’s solid mom advice, and I genuinely believe those words. But do I heed this wisdom in my own life?

The really short answer is no. The still short but not quite as short as the latter answer answer is not entirely, but I’m working very hard to change that. Putting my own challenges out there for public review isn’t the easiest task for me. Frankly, it’s extremely difficult, but I believe that it’s important. We share our lives with each other, and we should never feel isolated in our struggles. I have survived dark days, and I want others who are hurting to know that they aren’t the only ones to have ever felt that way.

To be abundantly clear, I don’t believe that being honest about yourself means that you have to share every heavy detail of your existence. Not at all. I also recognize that we reveal different parts of ourselves to various groups of people in our lives. But that is about discretion, not dishonesty about who we really are.

If you can’t own the reality that your life is not perfect, you aren’t alone. Sometimes I feel like I am walking around in a giant suburban masquerade ball. Fancy clothes and jewelry. Made up faces and unnaturally wide smiles. Peals of raucous laughter and endless bottles of wine always a-flowin’.

Maybe balls aren’t your style. Perhaps you would prefer the idea that we are all playing a giant game of strip poker. If you don’t play your hand correctly, you may find yourself peeling off those thin layers of protection that hide all of your unmentionables. Then again, if you aren’t into balls, strip poker is probably an even worse scenario for you, so back to the masquerade analogy we go.

We all wear masks. They shield others from seeing what is really underneath. Removing the mask would leave us exposed. The fairy tale would vanish, and a normal human would be revealed. The facade of perfection would vanish.

The problem with masks is that they aren’t really part of us. They may serve to shield us at times, but the clock will strike twelve and all of our coaches will turn back into pumpkins eventually.

We all have blemishes – imperfect marriages, parenting problems, body image issues, health challenges. We all have stains – choices that you shouldn’t have made, friendships that you lost, jobs that didn’t work out, addiction, mistakes. Everyone has experienced some version of that. If anyone needs you to be the kind of person who doesn’t have that kind of reality in their life, recognize that they are wearing a serious mask as well.

We have a path, and we are here to learn how to walk it. It wouldn’t be much of an experience if we arrived on the scene, already knew everything, didn’t have any ups or downs, and then left the planet again. What would be the point of that journey?

Choose to find the learning opportunities in your experiences. Know that you are allowed to be perfectly imperfect. Do good and be well as often as you can. Forgive yourself whenever that doesn’t happen as planned, and tackle the good / well dynamic once more with the next step you take.

And do all of that with honesty. Own who you are. It’s alright for others to know that you move to your own beat and that sometimes you miss a step (or if you are cool and graceful like me, you fall flat on your face). I can assure you that everyone else stumbles, too.

You don’t have to pretend to be someone else. You may need to work on your choices – we all do – but you must remember that you are an intentional and important part of the divine plan. You are a stunning piece of this beautiful design, and you are where you should be right now. If another person doesn’t get that, or more accurately, if they don’t get you, set their expectations free.

Your true light lies cloaked beneath those false layers. Release the fear of judgement and of not being accepted as you are. Have faith in yourself. Remove the mask, and reveal the raw beauty that lies within you.

Love and light always – Joanna

 

Cloaked

Brave

Take Flight

Stepping out of your comfort zone is disconcerting for anyone. If it wasn’t, we would call it walking. But leaving that place of emotional security while also anticipating that every person in your life will understand your perspective is not simply unsettling. It is unrealistic.

Very few people have the ability to openly embrace change. Even fewer have the capacity to actively seek it. When they see someone in their inner circle bucking the system, it rankles them and scratches their own fears to the surface.

While I am displeased with this admission, the raw truth is that I can most certainly be one of those¬†inflexible and easily rankled¬†buzzkills of a human. Seeing someone I care about do something that doesn’t fit their normal pattern concerns me. I take a marathon sprint down the mental worry path and start listing various possible barriers to their success (hopefully these thoughts occur via my “excessive and overthinking” inner voice but unfortunately the ponderings frequently happen through my “excessive and needs to shut up immediately” outer voice).

It’s not that I don’t want the people whom I care about to do well.¬† That’s not it at all.¬† I absolutely want them to be successful. However my desire to protect that person from any harm becomes entangled with my own insecurities, hurts, and memories of past disappointments (a.k.a. My Issues and Me – The Less Sexy Shades of MoJo).

My focus on any potential negative outcomes shadows my ability to recognize the other equally possible positive outcomes. I worry about their chance of failure, but in doing this, I miss the reality that their willingness to get on the playing field at all means that they are already taking part in the game. Thankfully I almost always manage to get on board eventually. I just need time to realize (once more) that my self-imposed limitations need not apply to anyone else’s hopes and dreams.

So when the tables turn and this happens to me – when I say that I want to venture further away from my own comfort zone and I find myself feeling the sting from a response that pushes me to stay with the status quo – I recognize the source of that other person’s reaction. I am reminded once more that my belief in myself cannot be diminished by another person’s insecurities.

image000000_65No one in this world has the right to deny you your hopes and dreams. No one. And if they are doing that, it is only happening because you are handing them that power. Don’t ever sacrifice your light to someone else’s fear.

Always dream, and when you do, always dream fantastically big.

This is your journey, and there are endless choices you can make. Just be sure that the ones you select are truly yours.

We may not always succeed with every attempt that we make, but we will never even get the chance to find out what we can achieve if we continually refuse to try. Don’t allow the words of another to weigh you down.

We each have something wonderfully unique and wildly special within us. When you feel like you are stepping into the zone and that you are kindling the spark within you, that is the divinity of your soul cheering you on.

Listen to that voice. Follow that feeling. Release the fears, find your wings, and take flight.

Love and light always – Joanna

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***Photos in this post were taken from my airplane window while traveling to San Diego for work this week.

Windows

Deny

Sleepless Nights

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I have faith, and I believe that life falls into place as it should.  Of that I am certain.

While that belief fortifies my soul, I still feel tremendously tired and extremely worried. ¬†I very literally have dozens of voicemails and emergency warning messages on my phone for local flash floods and tornadoes touching down around us. ¬†My children are sleeping once more in the closet for their safety, and I find myself mentally circling all of the “what if” scenarios as I lay here listening to more rain pummeling our home and our town.

I get up every few minutes to see if floodwaters are creeping toward our home. I read the news and learn of more catastrophic occurences as well as further worsening predictions. ¬†I watch the radar constantly. ¬†It feels like this should be ending any moment now, but we know that there will be several more days of this still to come. ¬†I wonder if we will still have a home once it’s over.

No matter what happens, we will be alright, and we will get through this. ¬†I’m just ready to be at that point. ¬†Thank you for all of your love, kind wishes, and prayers. ¬†Your friendship and support have been such lights in this fearful darkness we have been in the last few days. ¬†I appreciate each of you more than I can possibly express.

Much love to you all.  Joanna

What I Would Have Missed

1a

Over the past couple of months, I have not written about my strong belief in angels. ¬†I don’t ask or need for you to believe what I say in this entry, but I can’t share my experience without doing so here. ¬†Not that I would want to anyway. ¬†I owe them my life.

Twenty years ago, I almost died. ¬†There was no accident. ¬†I wasn’t suffering from a terminal illness. ¬†I just didn’t want to fight against my tormented mind and my broken heart anymore. ¬†It wasn’t worth it, and I wasn’t worth it. ¬†I was lost, and I attempted to take my life.

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1b

When the roller coaster of emotions was climbing upward, I could recognize that everything would be alright. ¬†I could see possibilities all around me. ¬†But whenever the imminent crash would happen, my ability to perceive the relevance of my existence wouldn’t merely fade – it would disappear. ¬†The darkness would swallow me whole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had struggled for years with the unpredictability of manic depression. ¬†I read the books. ¬†I met with the doctors. ¬†I took the pills. ¬†But I couldn’t make it stop. ¬†It was as if I had no control over my life or my sanity. ¬†I could see it. but I couldn’t stop it. ¬†I wanted to turn off the noise. ¬†Turn off the pain. ¬†Turn everything off.

1f

I couldn’t hurt myself or anyone else anymore. ¬†I couldn’t stay any longer. ¬†I couldn’t hold on. ¬†I took the pills. ¬†Handfuls of them. ¬†I was blind with confusion and hurt. ¬†I was going under and I wanted to let go.

I stood in the little bathroom with the empty pill bottle in my hand, and I heard a clear voice that was not my own. ¬†“This is it. ¬†You have to do something NOW.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A switch flipped inside me in an instant.  Immediately my head became clear and my mind snapped to attention.  I knew what I had heard, and I understood exactly what it was saying to me.

I had to get those pills out of my body right away. ¬†I tried to throw them up but I couldn’t. ¬†I calmly approached my mother and told her that I needed ipecac syrup or some other medicine that would force me to vomit. ¬†She was terrified but managed to track some down. ¬†I can still envision the countless pills floating in the water. ¬†Even though I had expelled the pills within minutes after taking them, I still slept for two straight days.

1kThat experience changed me on every level. ¬†It didn’t make the ups and downs go away. ¬†It didn’t stop my anxiety problems, my OCD tendencies, or my mercurial emotions. ¬†I didn’t become the easiest person to be friends with nor did I become a dream family member at all times (or even most times, but I really do try). ¬†However my eyes were opened. ¬†I realized that I was supposed to be here, I was not alone at any point, and my life had value. ¬†I didn’t have the slightest idea about the blessings I would receive nor did I understand those I would give. ¬†I didn’t understand my true value, and I suppose, to a very great extent, I still don’t. ¬†But I knew then that my worth was beyond measure.

I matter.  We all do.

There are moments in our lives that can change everything.  Our destinies can be shaped over time or they can be flipped in an instant.  When you have depression, the finality of that choice can be lost when you are in the darkness.   It will pass.1g

There is more light around you and in you than you could ever imagine.  There is beauty and wonder and love and hope and magic.  And there are angels.

Your life is precious, and you are never alone.

Do not give in to the illusion of endless darkness. ¬†There is no darkness without the light. ¬†The sun is always there even when you can’t see it. ¬†Just give it a little more time.1e

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Hold on a bit more.  Let the possibilities of your life become beautiful realities.  Never give up on hope.

You can’t fathom what you would never want to miss.

1l

In love and light always – Joanna

***There are countless photos I wanted to include of others who make my heart smile, but I didn’t need to ask permission from this crew. ¬†ūüôā

Day 12 – Keep Going and Never Give Up

prayer

This is a little snippet of a text conversation I had with my mom a few weeks ago.  Clearly I was ribbing her, but sometimes it feels true.  We pray and beg and cry, but we stay trapped in an emotional whirlpool where we can barely keep our heads above water.  I fully believe that our cries are heard, but we may still have to ride out the waves a little longer.  The key is to keep going and to just hold on a bit more.  Never stop hoping and never give up.

Thankfully I was able to spend yesterday out of the whirlpool. ¬†I didn’t have to ride any major emotional roller coasters. ¬†I wasn’t subjected to any blindsiding life events. ¬†And I continued to take initiative to keep the good momentum going.

My three goals from yesterday were:

  • Assess and go into more detail on the division of labor on the home management scene (a.k.a. sharing the chores).
  • Take a little walk beyond the boundaries of my home and yard.
  • Write something honest that makes me uncomfortable to share but likely needs to be read by someone who could be helped by it.

These were the results:

  • Chore chat – On a scale of “Bleh!” to “Fabulous!” I would give this one a high “Meh.” ¬†We talked about it. ¬†We split up chores. ¬†No big epiphanies, but no big meltdowns either. ¬†Chores were knocked out with minimal drama by anyone. ¬†That’s actually probably closer to a “Yay!” than a high “Meh.”
  • Take a walk – I circled the block to check the mail. ¬†That was probably somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of a mile. ¬†Task complete.
    • This seems like really small potatoes, right? ¬†But allow me to add these deets for the numbers nerds out there. ¬†If you walk 1/3 of a mile every day for one year, that comes to 122 miles. ¬†In ten years, you are at 1,217 miles. ¬†If if really committed and did this for fifty years, that would mean an extra 6,100 miles. ¬†Bumping it to 1/2 a mile a day would mean an extra 183 miles in a year, 1,825 miles in a decade, and 9,125 miles over fifty years. ¬†Dat’s a lotta meat-a-balls!
    • If I went totally bananas and walked 1 & 1/3 miles daily for fifty years (51.17 years for you fact checkers), I would walk the same distance as the circumference of the Earth (again allow me to save you the lookup time – 24,901 miles). ¬†Amazing!
  • Write something raw – I wrote about problems, labels, and disorders I have wrestled with my entire life. ¬†I wrote about what I am doing to work toward booting any remaining freeloaders off my train for good. ¬†I don’t like putting this stuff on paper (electronic or otherwise), but I believe that it’s important that we recognize any negativity we have been empowering, and at times, embracing. ¬†We wear our labels like they are fresh off the rack. ¬†Even if I can’t fully extricate them from my emotions and my behaviors, I can stop allowing them to define me. ¬†I have to be willing to see them for what they are, and hopefully in doing that, I can recognize that they are not who I am but rather attributes and experiences I have meandered and learned from. ¬†Taking that a step further, my prayer is that my revealing my own struggles and successes may help someone else keep swimming through their emotional whirlpool until their waters subside. ¬†They always do. ¬†Just keep swimming. ¬†(Now imagine Dory singing those words in “Finding Nemo” – it’s catchy! ¬†A bit annoying but catchy nonetheless.)

We are not designed to be “perfect” people (“perfect” per our subjective human standards, definitions and expectations). ¬†We are going to be sorely disappointed if we require that of ourselves. ¬†I believe that the real game at hand is figuring out that we are the way we are for a reason. ¬†We always discover our greatest strengths whenever we overcome our greatest weaknesses. ¬†And sometimes it isn’t even about overcoming those weaknesses or shortcomings. ¬†Sometimes the actual truth (Truth) is that we have to recognize that they aren’t shortcomings at all. ¬†These so called disorders and perceived personality aberrations are an intentional part of who we are. ¬†They have a purpose in our lives. ¬†We are not broken.

You are not broken.

With that said, I would like to highlight a few of the people who have deeply inspired me to keep going at various times this week. ¬†There are so many amazing writers out there, but these individuals have a special kind of style when it comes to sharing their own experiences with adversity and how they tell their struggles to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. ¬†The word du jour per the Daily Post is savage, and that is the perfect adjective for these writers. ¬†They are honest and real and raw. ¬†They speak from their hearts and are perfect just as they are. ¬†I don’t share these with you for my benefit. ¬†I share them for yours.

https://wakinguponthewrongsideof50.wordpress.com/ РWhere to begin when describing this jewel?  She is absolutely wonderful on so many more levels than I could ever articulate.  Truly.  Amusing, heart warming, eclectic, and inspiring.  (Hello future me!  I utterly adore you!)

https://knockedoverbyafeather.wordpress.com/ –¬†Bad assness at this level needs no introduction, but I will say that my world is infinitely better because she is part of it. ¬†(Also I’m dying to see that giant feather!)

https://insidetherainbow.blog/ – She makes me laugh and cry and laugh again every single time, and she speaks to my heart whenever she writes. (I would gladly stand in a line for 4 hours to see “Grease” with this rockstar!)

https://carolrolke.com/blog/ –¬†Introspective, clever, witty, and fierce – I appreciate her words on so many levels. ¬†(I’m pickin’ up what you are puttin’ down. ¬†Keep sharing all that awesomeness!)

https://authentically50.wordpress.com/ – We face different issues at this point in our lives, but her words transcend the individual scenarios. ¬†(I’m truly thankful that I stumbled across your blog. ¬†Such divine providence! ¬†You are a blessing.)

never give up

My father gave me this little sign for my desk years ago.  Such powerful words.  Thanks for the reminder Pop.

Be fierce.  Be yourself.  Never give up.  Never give in.

***Joanna***

Savage

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