The Patchwork Soul – Recognizing Our Divine Beauty

I have noticed that I am being drawn with greater regularity to writing about releasing fear, owning all parts of our journey, and learning to love ourselves as perfectly imperfect people. It’s amusing to me that I ever questioned my focus given that I wrote the post below years ago. This was the first blog entry I ever created. So much has happened since I wrote these words, yet the message remains.

***

When you look at yourself, what do you see?  Does it all make sense to you, and do you like every part of that picture?  When I look deep within, I sometimes find that I have questions.  I see parts that are beautiful, bright and fun.  I see elements of joy, moments of unshakeable faith, and acts of kindness that make me smile.  I love these pieces of me.  But then I notice other parts that don’t appear to continue that wonderful trend.  There are remnants of doubt, frustration and sometimes anger.  At times, there are places that seem dark and cold.  I see colors that clash and mismatched patterns.

How do these fit into the same package?  I cannot fathom how this mix of light patches and dark patches will possibly come together to become something worth keeping and definitely can’t see them fitting together to become something spectacular.

But then I remember the one thing that matters more than anything else.  I am not the creator of the artwork being molded.  While I strongly believe that I have creative input via free will and the choices this allows me to make, I know that it is not my hand that guides the design of my soul.

I have spent so much time trying to unbreak and fix those parts that I don’t understand, don’t want to recognize, and don’t want to be – but these are part of me and part of my design.  I may not understand the dark patches, but I don’t think that my comprehension is required on this journey.  Maybe the moments of darkness act as contrasts to allow the beautiful light parts to really shine.

I believe that it is time to let go of the idea that we are broken and need to be fixed.  The light and the dark fragments come together to form a masterpiece of God’s creation.  When I look at myself with this in mind, I’m not sure how it could get any more awesome and spectacular than that.  And that’s what I see when at look at you, too.

If we want to add to the creative mix, let’s use that wonderful free will to make choices that make us feel light and wonderful.  Maybe we can go with choices that help others feel the same way, too.  In the meantime, let’s embrace all the colors, all the moments and all the blessings because we are patchwork souls with a heavenly designer.

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

Taking Back Your Self-Worth – Releasing Another’s Unkindness

STONE

Sticks and stones have yet to break my bones, but words have left me reeling on countless occasions.  Many of us were raised to speak kindly and ignore harsh comments from others, but as we all know, it’s not quite that cut and dry.

I’m going to share a personal story that very few people in my life have heard.  Congratulations internet – you are now part of The Circle of Secrecy.  (Apparently The Circle is quite large.)  (Also I feel like it would be disingenuous if I didn’t clarify that there are actually additional Circles within The Circle.)

When I was in high school, I participated in a program that allowed several students and teachers to spend a couple of weeks with various families in Asia.  It was incredible, eye-opening, and beautiful beyond words.  Experiences like that change you forever in ways that you couldn’t imagine.  Sadly, the trip also left me with a memory that I can’t forget either.  It may seem small, but it had a tremendous impact on me.

The flight from Texas to Japan took about 500 hours (give or take about 485 hours).  We were antsy teenagers, and while we were excited to be going, it took foreeeeveeeer to get there.  100 or so hours into the flight, I started talking to the guys sitting on either side of me.  I wasn’t looking for love in all the wrong places.  I was just bored, so I chatted with the adjacent humans.  Unfortunately they were also bored and got trashed with the adjacent liquor bottles.  It wasn’t my favorite spot to be in, but I didn’t know what else to do.  It was an exchange program, but the exchange option did extend to my seat number.

Eventually the men became extremely rowdy, so one of the head administrators of the school called me over to sit in a seat in the row in front of him and his wife.  Another staff member moved to take my seat instead.  That was 100% fine by me.  I re-seated my seat, buckled my buckle, and the plane kept plane-ing.  Nothing could have been worse than their obnoxious behavior, so I was incredibly relieved to be elsewhere.

Until I heard this spoken softly by the administrator to his wife in the row behind me…

“That Joanna is a total slut.”

I can’t tell you how much it hurts me to repeat such base words of intense unkindness spoken about me by a leading administrator of my school.  There was zero truth in them.  I may have been brash and loud, but I truly was an innocent child.  Overhearing those poisonous words from this respected person of authority made me feel like trash.

I have kept this story close because it is something I have wanted so badly to forget.  It’s one small utterance, but it scratches my heart raw.  Someone who knew absolutely nothing about me saw that when he looked my way.  He thought I was low.

My mistake was not speaking to the two faceless men.  My mistake was listening the one whose face I can’t forget.

In his defense, he was not a bad man at all.  On the contrary, he was a very good man who did countless wonderful things to help many students.  While he was utterly wrong about me, I don’t know of any other student that he failed over the years.  I want to believe that he was stressed while watching the whole scene from several rows over.  He misunderstood my not being able to deflect those inebriated jackasses as an invitation on my part.  He misunderstood the situation, but more than anything, he misunderstood me.  I never called him out on those words, but I have often wished that I had for my own sake.  In truth though, it doesn’t matter.

Even though I knew then that what he said was not true, it still tore down my self-image.  That poison has coursed through my spirit for years.  I should have never given such power to the thoughtless words of that man.  The unkind words and acts of another do not deserve the authority to govern my self-worth.  Self-worth should always remain an inside job.

Unkindness does not define me.  Unkindness does not define you.

People say and do things that are strikingly hurtful.  They lash out and lose control and make mistakes.  Sometimes hurting you is intentional, and sometimes they don’t even know that they are doing it.  Your hurt becomes invisible collateral damage.  Most can’t see, but you can’t avoid.  It gnaws at us and steals our happiness.  But their unkindness is about them – not you.

I now see the paper tiger in his untruth.  I forgive a kind man who mistakenly whispered callous words with zero understanding of their impact.  I release that ghost of my past.  I take back all power I once gave it, and I bring yet another part of my soul back out of the shadows.

We have sacrificed pieces of ourselves to others who never deserved them.  No one should ever be given the power to make you feel substandard or less than.  You are never less than.  You are meant to excel and grow and dream and learn and soar.  Let go of another’s false perceptions, and discover who you really are.

Release the unkindness.  Take back your self-worth.

You were born to shine!

In love and light always – Joanna

***This is one of my favorite posts from an awesome lady and fellow outcast / badass who also had to brush off hollow unkindness thrown her direction.  High five from me to you girl!  😉
Too Good for Wal-Mart

Substandard

Breaking Free

butterfly4aYou wouldn’t think much to look at it.  And of course that assumes that you would have even noticed it in the first place.  Many people would walk right by and yet it would remain unseen.  They don’t recognize the magic.  The wonder.  The amazing.  It’s all within view if they can simply look a little harder.

I feel this way sometimes.  I am invisible.  Hidden in the roles I play.  Camouflaged in a daily routine.  Surrounded by a beautiful facade.  At times I want to fault others for their failure to see what I have to offer, but then the realization slams into me.

The others aren’t the ones who are missing it.  I am.

I am the one who can’t see who I truly am, and I am the one who can’t recognize what I have to offer.

butterfly3aHow often do we degrade our perceptions of ourselves based on where we are in the moment?  We criticize our physical appearances.  We curse our life circumstances.  We replay our sad choices and moments of humanity in our minds and declare ourselves unworthy or unlovable.  We twist reality to meet our misconceptions and insecurities.  We assume that the world sees us this way as well.

But that doesn’t make any of those judgements true.

It is human nature to seek validation from every external source we can find.  The irony is that the wonder and mystery of our lives is not what happens on the outside.  It is without question that the experiences and individuals outside of our physical and spiritual selves are there to be enjoyed, loved, and appreciated.  They complement our human experience and allow us to grow on countless levels.  We develop with these external elements, but the true miracle that is embedded inside us was there long before they came along.

Something deep and beautiful and mysterious lies dormant within us.  It waits to break free of all that we create to keep it locked away.  We must push past our fears if we are to know our true beauty and purpose.  We are so much more than we allow others and ourselves to see.  Wake up.  Reveal your beauty to the world.  And break free!butterfly1a

Love to all of the beautiful miracles out there!  Joanna

Dormant

***pic 1 – monarch chrysalis hanging on a lemon plant on our patio
***pic 2 – monarch caterpillar having a nap before chewing up more milkweed
***pic 3 – monarch butterfly that had just emerged from another chrysalis on our patio this morning

I Didn’t Ask but You Told Anyway

college kids

 

Dear random individuals who express unsolicited sentiments about my driver’s license photo,

I want to begin by thanking you for sharing your honest thoughts that I never knew I needed to hear.  Although I didn’t ask for your opinion, I appreciated your candor, and yes, I actually did already know that I looked so different compared to that photo taken two decades ago.  The shock you conveyed was an added bonus, so again, thank you for keeping your personal filters on the low setting for my benefit.  As is common knowledge, every woman in her 40s looks exactly the same as she did in her 20s, so naturally any photo taken from 20 years ago (especially one as flattering as a driver’s license shot) should be identical in appearance to that person’s present reality.

For some inexplicable reason, it appears that I am suffering from a peculiar genetic mutation that has created a strange and irreversible “aging process” that continues to reveal itself more and more with each year that passes.  This medical mystery has left indelible creases on my face, wings hanging where triceps once resided, and saggy areas placed on random locations all around my body.  Lucky for me, my hormones have sensed the situation and have risen up in revolt against this anatomical oddity.  In lieu of a castle, they have established a defense line of random hairs along my face, supply storage on my hips, and the creation of a badonkadonk only Sir Mix-a-Lot could truly appreciate.

And though it was years ago, I feel that I would be remiss not to send a shout out to the gem of a lady who performed a test on my heart when I was extremely pregnant.  Given that I was carrying a mini human within my frame and being forced to have an echocardiogram to ensure my health and that of my unborn child, I had no anxiety at that point anyway.  Yes, I was also shocked at how much weight I had gained in the two year gap since we had seen each other.  She didn’t seem to note the significance of how I wasn’t pregnant the previous time we had met, but it was really special how she went out of her way to comment with such fervor about the difference.  Like all women suffering from perpetual discomfort and chronic sleep deprivation due to the small feet incessantly stomping on their hoo-hahs from the inside, I needed to be reminded at that exact moment by someone who was not my doctor (or even a doctor) about the excessive weight gain pregnancy could bring.

Thank you.  Thank all of you.  I am so glad that even though we aren’t friends and actually don’t know each other at all, you still feel comfortable enough with me to fearlessly point out how much older I look and that I have gained weight.

Sincerely yours,

No One Ever

***MoJo***

This post is dedicated to Skillet, Sr.  You have been there for me through jellies, hoochie boots, mom jeans, and the most difficult and best parts of my life.  Thank you for never making the comments detailed above, and not just because you know that I would pull your hair out if you did.  I love you my dear friend and soul sister. –  Skillet, Jr.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: