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

The Road to Hell is Paved with Varnish, but There’s Still Gratitude to Spare

When your house has been listed for sale since the Triassic period, you definitely want to learn that you are going to have a second showing the day after you have a couple dozen families over to carve Halloween pumpkins. As cleaning up after anything with that many small kids is sure to be a non-event, I highly recommend that you follow my wise lead and opt to refinish your front door that same evening as well. If at all possible, only do this when the weather is cold enough to ensure that the wax or varnish won’t dry by the following day when the actual showing is to occur. Ideally you want to make sure that it just sticky enough to be impossible to wipe off with a rag yet still tacky enough to be able to get all over the hands of those potential buyers when they touch your door. Imagine tar but without all those ginormous dino bones mucking up your masterpiece.

If you do this, the visitors will return the favor by staying an hour and a half in your home (forget that silly hour window we agreed upon), repositioning all of your window treatments (unevenly – and that’s where you lose me), playing with your kids’ toys and leaving them in various places throughout the house, and sitting on your beds (my perpetual fav that incredibly keeps happening!). Honestly I’m to the point where they could try on my bras as long as they ultimately gave us a good offer and bought the house. I would only request that they wash their sticky mits before doing so.

Every single time we have a showing request, it causes – no that’s not right – I cause utter chaos in my ridiculous attempt to create order. I spiral wildly as I search for control. My poor family does a perfect imitation of repelling magnets as they maintain a safety bubble of distance away from me as I dash from room to room. I move into ludicrous speed and frantically tackle whatever unimportant detail that my mind chooses to believe is a potential random item that these people might notice.

The problem (in addition to me) is that these specific buyers stayed the full hour the first time they came here. Our video camera showed that they spent surprising amounts of time on items that seemed nit-picky (even to me!). Does this hardware move on this fixed door to allow it to open another way even though the adjacent door is all good (thus indicating that yes it’s fine and is this really a deal breaker anyway?)? What do the window treatments look like if we move them all up several inches but leave them at varying heights throughout the first floor? Why is there a cemetery in the front yard, and is it really included with the house as indicated by the FOR SALE sign? I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders as my OCD sat watching the footage with mouth agape. Sorry OCD. Someone has out-insignificant detailed you.

As my OCD never settles for second place, it chooses nonsensical tasks like refinishing doors in response to the challenge. I see it happening. I know that the timing is wrong. But I just can’t shackle the nutty girl who has taken the wheel and is driving the bus at that point. Whenever it happens, I want to hand my husband a note that says, “Remember when you said ‘For better or worse…’? Well this ain’t the better part.” Sadly he doesn’t need a note to clue him into that reality. Every irrational action I take displays this like a neon sign. He’s a good man, and I’m truly thankful for him. I’m blessed to have him, no one should be stuck dealing with this level of nonsense. Then again, he’s at the World Series as I type this, so maybe he will survive after all. (An amazing friend offered him her extra ticket. I’m thrilled for him and incredibly thankful for that awesome pal!)

I am grateful that we had a second showing, and I’m hopeful that it went well. We assumed that they might be moving in this evening when they wouldn’t leave, but eventually they scooted out. At this point we haven’t heard back yet. The good news is that it appears that none of my bras have wax or varnish on them, so I guess they followed at least one of my rules. I’m just so ready to hand the keys and mortgage over to another family who appreciates this house and genuinely wants to call it home.

I was hoping to do tons of other stuff today, but again, if the house sells, it’s definitely worth it. Fingers and toes are crossed. It will work out no matter what, but it sure would be lovely if it worked out now.

I hope that you avoid sticky situations of your own and that your week is a good one. Blessings to all of you.

Joanna 😉

Gratitude

Childhood Depression and Anxiety – Avoid Feeding the Monster

Having grown up with depression and anxiety challenges as a child, I constantly watch my kids for the signs I once showed. Do they like to stay in bed all day? Are their moods reflective of the bipolar disorder that once consumed me? Do their emotions soar to elation only to come crashing back down to utter blackness in an instant (beyond normal hormonal kid madness)? Do they grow so dark that I cannot see their light shining through? Do they become excessively focused on negative scenarios? Do they see themselves as being broken? Are they unusually connected to the pain of others? Do they talk about suicide?

For me, the answers would have been clear to those close to me by the time I was in middle school. In hindsight, I knew that I was struggling beyond the norm before I was even out of elementary school. Was there anything that my parents or anyone else could have done that would have steered me in another direction? The plain truth is this – I really don’t know.

Please note that I am not a trained medical professional nor am I a psychologist of any kind. The only role in therapy I have ever served is as the person on the sofa with sad tales, zombie-chic runny mascara eyes, and a box of someone else’s tissues at the ready. If you are looking for professional medical advice, you won’t find it in anything that I write. Also I should disclose that I can’t teach you how to iron either. Those skills just aren’t in my wheelhouse, and I don’t plan to add them anytime soon.

I am speaking as an individual who survived the blackest nights of being clinically depressed and terribly suicidal. I am speaking as a person who doesn’t just hope that recovery is possible – I know that it is a reality. When I tell people that I no longer have depression, I mean that with absolutely sincerity. I’m not going to lie – I can be a serious bitch, and I am highly explosive at times and heavily in the doldrums at others. But that is not the same as what I experienced decades ago. Not even close.

When I was growing up, we faced some extremely stressful situations. Based on every other family I now know and reality (as I perceive it today), it appears that my genetic pool has never maintained a corner on the stress market. Everyone has stuff. Everyone has stories. Bad yucky sad tales and heart-wrenching experiences. It’s just the way the humanity cookie crumbles.

So when major unfun stuff happens in or to my own family now, I look even closer to see how my children respond. Are they emotionally drowning or are they temporarily set back but heading back toward being okay? Do they disappear for hours and hours to hang out by themselves in their rooms for days? Do they withdraw from actual humans and get lost endlessly in mindless technology time? Does the bulk of their artwork or writing reflect heavy emotional tones? When I see these behavior patterns kick in, I remember my own downward spiral, and I act immediately to try to prevent my children from entering that treacherous ride.

While I recognize without question that there is a true physiological element to depression (thus why I fear that my children could have it), I also believe that we have the ability to circumvent and rewire that part of our makeup. Consequently when I see them displaying a behavior that appears to be “feeding the depression monster” (ramping up the potential for greater negative mental feedback), I immediately try to redirect their actions.

One of the rotten parts about being a kid is that you only have as much freedom as you are given by the adults around you. One of the best parts of being an adult is recognizing how you can use that dynamic to help your children when they need it most.

Here are a few specific examples I have used in the past month:

  • On multiple occasions, we have forced the older kids to turn off their emo sad FM music, leave their rooms, and come hang out for family night. We eat food that they like, we watch goofy movies together or play games, and ultimately, we end up spending hours laughing instead of emotionally stewing solo. Everyone goes to bed feeling like it was a good day because that’s how we closed it out.
  • My son told me that he was writing some very heavy and sad poems at school, and that he wanted to focus on writing this way because the other kids were so impressed by his depth. I’m not looking to raise Edgar Allan Poe II nor do I feel like this is good long-term brain food at all. I said nevermore to that crap and told him that I wanted to see a balance in his writing. I even called his writing teacher on the sly to let her know the importance of her being aware of this dynamic, too. She was glad that I contacted her and said that she had assumed that he was a deep-thinking writer with a heavy style. We agreed that he could still express his emotions while finding more balance via incorporating the positive emotional elements as well. She is encouraging him to find balance in class, and I work iinon this at home.  My son and I now talk about his writing every couple of days. I encourage him no matter what, but I try to focus my highest praise on the positive works. This isn’t about squashing his true feelings. It’s about programming his brain to point toward the half full glass version of thinking versus automatically seeing a smashed cup of darkness weilded by a creepy raven.
  • My kids get frustrated with the behaviors of some of the other children around them.  As fate would have it, it turns out that really small people can be seriously big buttheads (that is the scientific term for heavy duty jerkfaces). Instead of focusing on all the garbage that those other kids do, we try to find something good in them, and if that is a lost cause at that moment, we try to come up with an alternate good thing that happened that day to focus on instead.

The key to this is mental and emotional redirection. As parents,we want our children to know that we hear them and that we see them. We seek for them to feel emotionally validated, and we want them to be able speak to us with openness and honesty.

However as parents, we also need to show them which emotions are beneficial for them on a regular basis. Everyone is allowed to be sad and angry sometimes. We are even permitted to rage and be devastated. But we cannot allow those emotions to be our baseline. We have to help them figure out what emotions should be the outliers and what should constitute healthy daily living. We have to enlighten them on the obvious. It’s truly okay to not be okay sometimes, but ultimately it feels better to feel better.

Personally I find it cathartic to have a good solid cry every now and then. I have a handful of gut-punching songs, TV shows, and movies that are certain to do the trick if needed. Sometimes I’m just want to be a bear, and I don’t want to be cheered up dammit!

But even then, I still try to maintain awareness of how far I can let those emotions run. I only allow myself to take it so far. If this goes on for several days, I take steps to shift how I’m feeling by turning on funny shows and upbeat music. I change the channel when the heavy stuff appears until I can watch it without feeling emotionally inundated. I force myself to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t stink even if it’s something as simple as going to a plant store (Jo❤️🌸4ever).

It’s same story with the kids, but I attempt to expedite the process. I choose to change their sadness channels as quickly as I can. They don’t have the awareness to pull out of the spiral, so I do the best I can to steer them safely away from it instead. I refuse to allow them to feed the sadness or desire for isolation.

Can I guarantee that my children won’t face severe depression? No. Not at all. Do I know for certain that they will never face the darkest moments of feeling suicidal? It terrifies me to recognize that I can’t say yes to that either.

But I have seen that their hours of heaviness can be turned to moments of joy. I am certain that being aware of the warning signs and red flag behaviors might offer us opportunities to intervene in innocuous yet effective ways.

There are times when we can stop them from embracing the negativity. They are moments when we can avoid validating increased unhappiness by focusing on finding something to laugh at or something to do that makes them smile instead. The key is to figure out how to flip the switch the other direction in a way that engages your child.

I pray for blessings for all who struggle with depression and anxiety. Whether you are the one who is experiencing those challenges or you are the one who is trying desperately to send a lifeline to another navigating them, it is so very important to choose joy whenever you possibly can. There are numerous options for treatment, and I strongly recommend that anyone in need should seek available help. Please know that depression does not have to be a lifelong sentence. Stop the downward spiral whenever possible. Feed the best, not the beast.

Love and light to you always – Joanna

Enlighten

Another Weekend Morning

IMG_20171007_113023.jpgBefore 5am was able to an appearance on the clock this morning, I could hear the not so sweet sounds of one of the dogs barfing on the plush carpet of my bedroom floor next to me. It needs to be extra thick in order to be able to adequately absorb whatever may be hurled its way. Naturally I thought to myself, “Wait…is it Mother’s Day already?” But no. It was just another weekend morning.

So my husband and I jumped out of bed joyfully (as indicated by the way we were yelling at each other) to split up the tasks of collecting supplies to clean the cushy barf sponge and chasing the dog into the bathroom where she could (and did) upchuck a few more times on the tile. Thankfully we were able to wrap up the barf-fest and go back to bed for a few more hours.

sara splat

This is my kid, and this is how I felt after wrapping up round 1 of my morning.

When we awoke (again), my husband left to pick up our middle daughter who had spent the night at a friend’s house. We rarely allow our children to go to or have sleepovers. We have found that it’s typically just easier to let the kids play together at whomever’s house and then send them back same day while ending on a high note.

But this is one of our daughter’s dear friends, and she hadn’t seen her for months. We gladly made an exception when they invited our child to stay at their home. So when morning part 2 rolled around, my husband left to go pick her up from their home. I texted the other mom to see how it went, and she told me that they had a blast. Yay! The yay was short-lived when she added the text about how funny my kid was.

I love me some good funny anything, but I have learned that my daughter and I have significantly different opinions on what does and doesn’t belong in this category (which is pretty ridiculous because it takes almost nothing to entertain me). And if she was doing her version of funny, she was about to be in a doghouse of her own.

I was praying that I was wrong, but in case I wasn’t, I asked if burping was involved. And of coooourse it was.

Dammit.

It’s not that I go bazerk because my daughter burps sometimes. That action alone wouldn’t thrill me, but I wouldn’t totally flip out either. Let’s face it – she’s a kid. But my daughter doesn’t burp. That word is in no way adequate to capture what she does. If you have ever seen the movie “Revenge of the Nerds” – and if you haven’t, what the eff is that about because it’s an epic 80’s classic – just think of Booger. She a pretty version of that of that gnarly dude.

The even better news is that she worked overtime during the sleepover because she made it a point to show those parents her mad gross guy skillz while also attempting to teach their daughter how to do it, too. Yes. My kid. I’m so proud. It’s strange that they didn’t ask to schedule another sleepover right then and there.

“Hello Amazon. Could you possibly send that doghouse we thought we might be needing via rush delivery? Great!”

My kid found herself on ice as soon as she walked in the door. Tons of chores, no electronics, and the worst of all punishments – being forced to watch “Peppa Pig” with her little sister. Enjoy THAT.

Morning joy part 2 couldn’t depart fast enough. I needed morning part 3, so I could finally relax. I was certain that morning was tired of dishing out the crapola.

Silly silly me.

Few things say “keep the magic coming” like walking into your room to have the brilliant morning light reveal that the initial barf scrub session actually didn’t remove everything your pooch gifted to you pre-5am. Nothing disgusting to be found with that scenario. Especially not for someone who already has a serious aversion to germs and animal body action of any kind.

So it was back to the hands and knees again. Back to bringing in the towels and water. Back to getting out the Oxy Clean and Shout so my room could be flooded once more with those invigorating scents. Thank goodness for that because I just used the last of my Wet Dog Vomit in Your Carpet Plus Chemicals scented wax melts. They are so hard to find!

My sexy morning just wouldn’t quit.

I want to float carelessly over the stumbling blocks of life that I find, but instead I end up with a face full of barf towels. I need to laugh at the antics of my kids, but I am too wrapped up in the “oh no she di’n’t!” feeling I have instead. My dog would gladly let her gross action fly anywhere, but my daughter knows better. Nevertheless she saw her opportunity to misbehave and completely ran with it. And that genuinely bothers me.

It’s exhausting. The week has been insanely long, and I have a ton of actual work that I need to tackle. I just wanted to sleep in a little. More to the point, I needed to sleep in a little. And now I’m so steamed at everyone that it’s fogging up my whole brain. (Thus the diatribe here.) (And you’re welcome.)

I wanted to meditate to soothe my mind, but the words that kept circling my brain sounded like that old song “Fire Water Burn” by the Bloodhound Gang.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!
We don’t need no water, let the mo$#&er burn!
Burn mo$#&er!

Errr so I thought maybe not right then for meditation. I went into OCD overdrive and tackled the least relevant task ever. I organized DVDs. I could see the ridiculous nature of the obsession as I ran through it, but it was the task I picked, and there would be no chance of calm until I was finished.

Have I unpacked my suitcase from earlier in the week? Nope. Is my office organized and are all papers filed? Don’t be silly. Are my DVDs separated into kid movies, holiday theme, grown up movies, empty cases with movie location known, and empty cases with movie location unknown?  You bet your sweet patootie they are.  I almost put each group in alphabetical order (as they always had been until my mini-human tornadoes wreaked organizational destruction on the cabinet), but I decided to save that task as further punishment for the belch queen. My part in that task is over, and I can move on to actual stuff that needs to be addressed.

I recognize that I’m not talking about the really big issues in life, but that doesn’t change the reality that it doesn’t take much to throw us off kilter. Or at least it doesn’t take much for that to happen to me.  I want to move through my life with perpetually uplifting spirituality, but that’s damn hard to do when you are up to your elbows and ears in reality.

I didn’t get anything taken care of that I wanted to do over the past few days, and I wasted even more time and energy this morning. I want to be flexible when life’s little collection of unplanned moments stretches me thin, but instead I often feel like I’m being pulled to the point of having my elastic snap into pieces. I want my feathers to dance a bit in the wind, but I feel like they blow away wildly.  I am left with my rear exposed and looking like my goose is about to be cooked.

It frustrates me.  And sometimes it makes me angry and sometimes it makes me sad. Today was a smorgasbord of emotions. If you wanted them, you could have easily found them amongst the available selections.

But then again, I did end up with highly organized and soon to be alphabetized DVDs. One section of carpet and multiple sections of tile are looking might clean at the moment. My daughter will be on work duty, but she had fun seeing a lovely little friend. And the dog hasn’t barfed again for several hours, so hopefully she’s okay now.

I think that I’m mostly alright now, too. I’m feeling calmer. The Bloodhound Gang is no longer earworming me into insanity. I probably will be meditating in a few minutes, and somewhere in the mix there will be a shower. Everything is better after a shower.

The world keeps spinning, and I keep learning. The most pedestrian of days can turn into a roller coaster, and it sometimes feels like we are out of control. But really it’s just a matter of holding on and enjoying the ride whenever we possibly can.

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At least our dog looks relaxed today. I guess we have that going for us. (Isn’t she adorable?!?)

Love and light always – Joanna  😉

 

Pedestrian
Elastic

Do You Make the Cut?

I bought this t-shirt a few days ago because it made me smile (and that’s my key t-shirt buying criteria) (because apparently I am a ginormous child). There’s this part of me that sincerely believes that the printer hosed up the shirt because it just says #Adulting when it really should say #AdultingAttempt, #MostlyAdulting, or (if it was yesterday evening) #AdultingFail.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m trying. I’m really trying hard. But I still feel like I can’t get it all done. The tasks never end.

In an attempt to mitigate the madness, I started prioritizing my mental task list a couple of months ago. My approach is to write down the key items I need to take care of on paper (yes – on real live paper while using an actual physical writing tool – I’m so O.G. like that). Then I determine which ones are the key-iest of those key items. Those are my really must do’s. Anything else that gets knocked out is just a bonus.

Forcing myself to prioritize has been extremely helpful, but you never would have guessed that if you had been able to witness Hurricane Jo in full force two evenings ago. It just seemed like there was stuff piled everywhere. No. That’s inaccurate. It didn’t seem like there was. There WAS stuff piled everywhere. And then there were all of the non-pile items that needed to be addressed. Homework, spreadsheets for work, finances, meal prep, something else, something else, something else, etc, etc. I could feel the stress building, but there was no good way to say, “Buckle yourselves in tight kids because the crazy mommy train is currently exiting the station!”

Eck. So that was fun for the whole family.

The next morning rolled around, and my task list started to kick around in my brain once more. I felt the anxiety from my overloaded schedule creeping in before I even got out of bed. I hauled my mini-monkeys to school and began to take a closer look at my list. What was I doing wrong? I’m a mom and momming is always relaxing (always = never). But even I knew that it really wasn’t anything specific to that. Work was doing the work thing and the other stuff was doing the other stuff thing. I had been prioritizing my tasks regularly and “get my panties in a bunch” was not on the schedule until the following week. What was my deal? I looked at my list again and then started to contemplate my previous lists. And then it hit me.

I wasn’t on my priority list. There wasn’t one thing specifically designated for my own personal happiness on the “key things to take care of” section nor did it make the “stuff for later” section. I wasn’t on any of my priority lists.

Countless people can relate to the idea of not landing anywhere on their stuff to do priority lists, but that doesn’t make it right.  We should always make our own freakin’ cut.

Is this an issue of self-worth?  Is it about intentionally disregarding our own needs? I don’t think so (but my actions and lack of self inclusion on my numerous lists certainly seem to point to a major therapy opp). I believe that the real issue at hand is that we do value our individual needs to some extent, but we forget that they should hold the same level of importance as those of others we support in our lives. We would not expect those around us to debase their value relative to us, but that is the reality we apply to ourselves. It is also the example many of us set for our children.

To be clear, serving others is NOT the same thing as consistently sacrificing your own needs. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Many of us have a nasty habit of wanting to fix everything for everyone. We want to be flawless parents, support our spouses, volunteer when possible, work the perfect job / run the perfect house, and on and on. We avoid telling someone “No” when they ask us to do something when sometimes it’s really the best answer we can give. We get swallowed up by the turbulence of life, and our sanity and inner calm go down with the ship.

But there are countless things that have to be done everyday.

Well…are there really?  Yes I agree that it feels like there are, but let’s look at the list and be fiercely honest with ourselves.  What do you have on your “must do today” list that could also fit on the “must do to avoid world destruction” list? If you have items that fit on both of those lists, stop reading and get to work. Otherwise, let’s look at the list again. I bet big money (no whammies!) that you have items on your list that most definitely don’t have to be done today.  I would also wager that you have items on your list that someone else could do, or very possibly, someone else should do because it was never really your task in the first place. Even if it isn’t exactly how you would do it, let other people (including your kids, spouses, parents, coworkers, etc.) take care of their own stuff. You aren’t helping them by shouldering their responsibilities, and you definitely aren’t helping you.

Find 15 minutes just for you. Maybe it’s taking a walk around the block, running a quick errand for something you want, reading a chapter of a new book, or meditating for a few short minutes. Perhaps what you really need is to agree to give yourself a a little quiet time. I don’t care if you have to lock the door and sit on the potty longer just to have an excuse to get those few minutes to yourself (unless it’s a public potty, and in that case, you go in and you get out asap – no exceptions).

Make some time for you. Really commit and sometimes truly spoil yourself (if you can). Your wants and needs should hold the same level of importance and value as those around you. We must honor that in ourselves. We are better people when we validate our individual needs and recognize own self-worth.

Find a place for you on your priority list.  Make sure that you always make the cut.

Love and light always – Joanna

#Adultingish

 

Pamper

The Things We Don’t Say

nana

My husband took this picture of my daughter looking back at him from my car rear view mirror layered with dust. At that moment, we were lost on a country road in New Mexico. The scenery was amazing and the adventure unforgettable. I love everything about this photo.

Several years ago, I started a blog called Momentum of Joy. Almost no one knew about it, and I was adamant about keeping it that way. I didn’t write for long, and I was never comfortable with the idea that someone who knew me might read about my struggles. It got to the point where I felt like I could no longer find my voice. The words just disappeared. I allowed the domain to expire, and my desire to write faded away.

The stress of this past Mother’s Day led me (and my family) to the brink of ending up on the 5 o’clock news, so I decided to blog about it. I supposed that I did it for grins as well as self therapy, but that post unexpectedly reopened a part of my life that I had assumed was long gone until that very moment (https://momentumofjo.com/2017/05/20/mothers-day-a-day-of-relaxation-unless-of-course-youre-an-actual-mother/).  When I went to reactivate the site, I discovered that someone had nabbed my old domain and was effectively holding it for cyber ransom (Yeah – I’m looking at you China!), so Momentum of Jo was born (basically because it was available and close-ish to the original name).

Most of my initial posts were primarily comical or satirical in nature, but I still refrained from sharing it in a broader format with those in my life.  As I wrote more posts, I began to dig deeper, to delve beneath the surface layers, and to get more personal. There was no reason not to because so few people even knew about the blog. It was safe.

When the hurricane hit a few weeks ago, many of us became instantly connected in a way that I can’t adequately articulate. We shared extreme anxiety and fear for our families and homes for days, and we were deeply saddened at the losses that followed. We wept with friends and strangers, and we united to help those whose lives were devastated by the storm. That continues even now. Even though life will progressively fall back into the old patterns, something extraordinary happened in those days that changed me.

The protective walls I had been holding firm for years started to crumble, and to my own complete shock, I began to share my posts with family and friends. I recognize that this may seem inconsequential, but countless bloggers can confirm the freedom that comes with anonymity. No judgement. No questions. No explanations. Or at least none of that from anyone in your daily world. You can share the raw parts of yourself without having to worry about harsh whispers a few blocks over.

But after everything I have seen over the past few weeks, I’m tired of residing in the shadows. I see too many people hurting.

The more honest I become, the more people reach out and tell me that they have been or are in that emotional place as well. We all struggle with the nuances of being a human, but we rarely talk about the parts that hurt us the most – the fears, the losses, the despair. We paint over the pain as we cover social media with platitudes and plastic smiles.

I live a life that is overflowing with blessings. My children are wild and crazy and incredible. My husband is an amazing father, a wonderful husband, and a true partner in my life. I love all of my family more than they could ever imagine. I have genuine friends that have been at my side in my best moments and my darkest hours. I have a great job, and I sincerely love my colleagues. Our dogs are goofballs, but they are our goofballs. It’s the American Dream at it’s finest.

Except when it wasn’t and except when it isn’t.

I struggled desperately with depression when I was younger and almost did not make it out of my college years with my life. I still catch myself reeling from unexpected panic attacks, I feel consumed by loneliness at times, and I must work constantly to mitigate the irrational fears and behavior patterns that go hand in hand with anxiety disorders and expressions of OCD. As a bonus, I currently have split ends coupled with a serious mani / pedi deficiency. I’m a reflection of reality.

Most days are pretty good, but sometimes, I just get knocked on my emotional ass.  We all do. But we don’t talk about it.

So often, those raw and real aspects of ourselves and our lives are not reflected in the things we say.  Those can only be found buried within the things we don’t say.

If one person receives a minuscule level of validation or healing from something that is difficult for me to share, it’s worth my facing my own insecurities. If someone is in a dark place, and they can find a spark of light or a gleam of hope in my words in that heavy moment, I can handle judgement from those who don’t understand. I don’t need or ask for their approval or validation anyway.

Our struggles forge our characters and bind us together, and our lives are too important to be lived disingenuously. Life is like my family’s journey down that dusty country road. We get lost at times, but we are never alone. It may take us a good while to figure it out, but we will find adventure along the way, we will always have each other other, and ultimately, we will find our way back home. This journey is meant to be shared, and all of our experiences happen to help us to grow. If we can stop hiding so much of our true selves from the world around us, perhaps we can embrace more parts of this human experience we are having.

Hopefully my truth will resonate with another who still can’t find the words. I’ve found my voice again. Maybe I can help someone else find theirs, too.

Love and light always – Joanna

Layered

AWARD – Tell the Darkness to Get Lost

get lost award

The “Tell the Darkness to Get Lost” award was created to celebrate the rock stars who were kicked in the teeth by life and kept going anyway. It is also for those who inspire me to pick myself back up when I all I want to do is stay down.  It’s my tribute to the bad ass gem of a human I see in you.  You remind me to keep the faith, to keep going, and to never give in to the darkness.  Your light brightens my world and gives me strength to tell the darkness to get lost.  I celebrate you, I thank you, and I adore you.

Rules for accepting the award:

  1.  To me, awards and rules shouldn’t be paired together.  It’s like a great book and a forced book report.  It goes from fun reading to work.  So these are suggestions and ideas.  You do what you feel inspired to do.  If you change it wildly, that’s awesome!  As I said before, you’re a bad ass.  I would love to see what coolness you instill in this, but this whole thing is an optional gig.  You’re a bad ass no matter what.
  2.  Share one thing about you that is funny, interesting, or unique.  Ideally tell something that you haven’t shared before, but again, it’s your call.
  3.  You may display the award or not.  It’s your blog, so I’m not going to dictate website aesthetics.
  4.  You may nominate 5 or more or less other bad asses whom you believe deserve this award.  I don’t know how many I listed below, but I wanted to include countless more.  We all feel inspired by others and sometimes it’s beautiful to tell them how much their words have helped you when you needed it most.
  5.  Tell those people who you have tagged why they matter even if it’s just a word.  Kindness, bravery, resilience, laughter, quirkiness.  Whatever comes to mind.  Just tell them why you thought of them when you decided to share this with them.
  6.  Know how much I genuinely appreciate you.  You matter.  This world is infinitely better because you are in it.

Something about me…  Well, I have recently developed a serious talent for breaking my blog.  In less than a week, I have managed to delete my access, disconnect domains, upgrade downgrade upgrade and sorta downgrade my plan when I should have just stayed where I was, and mess up some of my normally untouchable fonts with “stray code” (uh what is that and how would I have done it?!?).  As a bonus, this is actually the second time I am writing the bottom half of this specific entry because it disappeared.  The last hour is 100% gone from my revisions history.  Even WP support couldn’t find anything.  Apparently I’m a frickin’ magician, too.  Now you see content and then POOF!   It’s gone!

Please note that I struggled greatly with selecting the nominees below because so very many of you bring light into my world.  There just isn’t enough internet to include all of the people I want to award.

Nominations (in no order at all):

https://joyfullyrenewed.wordpress.com/ – Your friendship makes my soul smile.  I could write a book on everything you have taught me.
https://mainepaperpusher.wordpress.com/ – You are like a butterfly with a gentle beautiful kindness that I adore.
https://insidetherainbow.blog/ – You are my sister from another mister.  I laugh and cry with you.
https://wakinguponthewrongsideof50.wordpress.com/ – If you are future me, I couldn’t be happier.  And if not, I’ll just have to stick with being inspired by how fab you are.
https://bookreviewsbyshalini.wordpress.com/ – You are Adele and I am Lady Gaga.  What a pair we are!  I’m so thankful for you sweet girl.
https://misifusa.wordpress.com/ – You make everything shine and fine light in the darkest of places.  You spread incredible kindness and bless us all.
https://knockedoverbyafeather.wordpress.com/ – Girl – you’re just kickin’ ass and taking names.  You are raw and real and fan-effin’-tastic.  Hold on.  Write that damn book.  You have a big important story to tell.  You are amazing.  Stick the #@*& around!  😉
https://watchwaitandwitness.com/ – Your teaching stories give me such joy.  You change the world in the very best way by opening little minds and hearts.  You changed mine, too.
https://thisismytruthnow.com/ – My friend with countless names…  Thank you for always finding a kind word and positive note.  I am perpetually in awe of the extensive writing and reading you do everyday, and I truly appreciate that you make time to include me in the mix.  I am thankful for you Jumper.
http://inspirationpie.com/ – You do serve up that inspiration!  I love your journeys, your wisdom, and your sass.
https://magickmermaid.wordpress.com/ – You are a fairy among us.  I adore the way you create magic all around you.  It’s infectious and marvelous (unlike the flu – also infectious but less fab).
https://foodzesty.com/ – On the one hand, you do not get this award because it’s terribly mean to make all that fantastic food while I sit here eating a hot dog.  On the other hand, I think that you are the cat’s pajamas and I can’t help but appreciate you on every level!  😉
https://collie123.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/r-e-m-everybody-hurts/ – You accept people for who they are.  You find beauty everywhere.  You are a kind soul Andrew.
https://carolrolke.com/blog/ – Hello outcast sister of mine!  I am certain that mom misplaced you in the hospital where we were born.  You are amazing.  I so enjoy your clever wit and your wicked smarts.  Keep ruling the world woman!
https://itrippedoverastone.com/ – Your ability to keep your chin up when life is lobbing some mega softballs your way is truly beautiful.
https://roseelaineblog.wordpress.com/ – Do I even need to mention the birds again?  (Clearly yes since I just did!)  You make the world beautiful on many levels.  Never stop painting.  Never stop shining.  I don’t think you could even if you tried.
https://elbycloud.wordpress.com/ – Your stories make me giggle.  Who wouldn’t feel seismic at reading them?!?!?
https://donnaanddiablo.wordpress.com/ – You don’t write on your blog anymore but you should!  Your comments always lift me up.  Thank you my friend.
https://welcometothenursery.wordpress.com/ – You recognize the importance of laughing at all things parenthood and I love that.  Kids – the original comedians.  I love your posts.  It’s like you live in our house, too.
https://readrantrockandroll.com/ – Mischenko – I told you that I was a mess with WordPress!  Hopefully your name will stick on this version!!!  In response to your latest post, reading your blog makes me happy!  I just love it.  You are a reading machine and you gobble up every book under the sun.  It’s like you’re the Flash but for nerds (cool nerds who read).  😉  So sorry about the revision revision revision!  I do adore you!

Thank you so very much to all of you.  You are precious to me.

Joanna

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