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

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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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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.

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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 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 flip 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.

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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.  🙂

 

Day 12 – Keep Going and Never Give Up

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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/ – Where 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

Day 11 – Open the Vault

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I love lofty ideals, but I’m definitely more of a brass tacks kind of girl.  With that in mind, my challenge continues to reveal that I have a mission and a purpose.  I want to change my life in amazing ways by taking basic actionable steps each day in the actual world of reality.  My dream is to help others discover how to change their lives for the better, and I am my own guinea pig (cue “Man in the Mirror” background music).  Hopefully my words will speak to someone who needs to hear them.  And if that doesn’t happen, maybe I can at least make someone giggle.

In case you haven’t noticed, my communication style is all over the place. (Thank you James J. Cudney IV for your wonderful post that made me contemplate this.   https://thisismytruthnow.com/2017/07/08/365-challenge-day-118-perceptive/) Although I sometimes take a softer approach, I can’t maintain that lane forever.  At times I am extremely direct and even overtly coarse, but it’s not intended to be offensive or hurtful.

For example, my husband might say, “Head to the bathroom to brush your teeth,” whereas I might opt for something along the lines of, “It’s time to get that monkey butt of those choppers!”  I think we can all agree that my version has an unrivaled level of finesse.

And on that note, I’m going to lead with the statement below, but please read a little further before deleting me from your life forever and ordering your own personal MoJo voodoo doll from Amazon.

We all have serious crap, we all have major hurt, and we all have terrible stories.

With that said, it’s most definitely a beast of a sliding scale.  I have experienced horrific things at different moments in my life, but I’m not going to pretend that I have a clue about the kinds of nightmares other people live with in their lives.  I will not say to you that I know where you are or how you feel.

But I do know that waiting for change to happen to you will keep you down.  Waiting for others around you to become the people you need them to be will keep you disappointed.  And waiting for life to stop and notice you when you stay hidden will keep you in the shadows.

Stop waiting.  Start doing something to get the life you actually want.

Below are some of the personal reasons I have leaned on to justify why I have remained in a holding pattern and hidden my light.  Speaking very honestly, I am extremely uncomfortable about listing these as I genuinely dislike admitting them.  However you can’t get to the goods unless you are willing to open the vault.

  • manic depression
  • OCD
  • anxiety disorder
  • ADHD
  • chronic pain
  • infertility
  • feeling less than
  • inability to see my own value
  • overwhelming work schedule
  • inability to be the kind of parent, wife, daughter, friend, employee and overall wonderful human I believe many others to be
  • debt
  • exhaustion
  • heartbreak
  • loneliness
  • feeling not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, etc.
  • uncertainty
  • fear

These are a handful of the treacherous battle flags I have flown against myself.  Thankfully I have taken several of those down but not all.  I am tired of hearing the remaining harbingers of hurt whipping around me.  I want to fly victory colors only.

I’m not saying that the cartoon birds are now taking flight around me as I sing sweetly and choose to pretend that reality isn’t kicking sand into my ice cream throughout the day.  I’m just saying that I want to find a way to turn all that sand into a beach instead of an unwanted mouthful of grit.

So here I am again.  Lofty ideals above.  Brass tacks / reality below.

Yesterday’s challenge period was spent watching a movie with my family, but I found myself thinking about the talk I had heard a couple of days prior.  I kept coming back to his recommendations and these questions:

  • What can I actually do today to change something for the better in my life?
  • What positive realistic step can I take?
  • What can I plan that I will be willing to do each day?

Ultimately I decided that I wanted to set at least three firm goals to complete each day.  They could be repetitive, but ideally, they would change and grow as the days passed.  Yesterday I chose the following:

  • Compile a file detailing specific metrics of my daily workload taks to help my manager understand why I feel inundated so much of the time
  • Examine last month’s spending activity and determine if there are areas that could be trimmed back
  • Have chore delegation conversation and discuss creation of family chore schedule

Those three items were actually quite significant, but they were all things I could either finish or initiate in earnest yesterday.  This is how they shook out.

I put together my workload task list to share with my manager.  He hasn’t seen it yet as I sent it last night, but it boggled my own eyes.  Even I was impressed with me.  Apparently he and I had both been in the dark about how much I was doing each day.  How could he possibly be expected to see my worth if I didn’t recognize it myself?

I exported one month’s financial activity to an excel file and classified them based on must pay for this or would like to pay for this.  I also looked at some of the bills that might have wiggle room (items like plan and equipment options or possible promotions for cable or cell service).  There absolutely were savings to be had.  I won’t be getting a boat anytime soon with those savings, but it’s still money I was not allotting effectively.  Also I adore the ocean, but I get terribly seasick.  Don’t be offended if you don’t ever receive an invite to sail on my future boat.  Because I won’t ever buy one.

And last but never least – the chore conversation and schedule.  I have developed a fantastic habit of being terribly angry at my family when they don’t do chores unless I ask them to do so.  To add to the joy, I have the additional tendency to burst into flames as my head spins madly while I scream in my best Exorcist voice “Just forget it!”  I then proceed to run them out of my fallout zone, and I do the chore(s) myself.  Must.  Stop.  That.  Madness.  NOW!  All of it.  So my husband, the older kids, and I each came up with ideas of how to put together a fair schedule to share and take turns on various chores.  The schedule we created only governed the next day (today), so one of my new goals (for today) consists of having another conversation with them to evaluate today’s results and take it several days forward.  It’s unreasonable to be angry with them if I am unwilling to break the pattern.  It will be a work in progress, but the point is that it is in progress.

What are three small things YOU can write down as goals to do today?  If your mind goes blank at the mere idea of this, feel free to test drive mine.  Here are a few other ideas:

Write something that brings you joy.  Read about a topic that interests you.  Make a list of what you do want.  Make a list to help you understand what you dream of having, doing, being.  Think of one small step you can take to get you a hair closer to whatever that may be.  Walk to the end of your block and back or even just walk to the mailbox.  Sit for three minutes and think of three things that are good about you – no matter how small they may seem.  If you have small kids, maybe you can try this when you take a bathroom break.  (Although if your children are anything like my own, you may find that heading to the toilet is akin to turning on an invisible but powerful kid magnet.  Why must they always find it critical to talk to me right then but scatter the moment I am actually available?)  Take a breath and be thankful that you can do that.  Pray for guidance.

Baby steps and small goals add up to big changes and major shifts.  Open the vault and find your treasure.  It’s there, and it’s up to you to unlock it.

Love and light always.  Joanna

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