Screw the Filters

Writing your honest story can be a rocky mental path to take. When I first started blogging, I went the anonymous route. I never had to worry if anyone I knew might be reading my posts. I didn’t concern myself with thoughts about if this person might think that I was referring to him / her or that that person might pick up on the reality that yes I actually was calling him / her out as a total jackass. And even though I could be brutally honest from that black box, I felt wildly disingenuous. I felt like I couldn’t possibly be writing my honest truth if I couldn’t own the words in front of real people in my life. So I shared my writing with a few people and then a few more and ultimately many people started reading my posts. At first I was okay with that, but as more time passed, I found myself editing the entries in my mind long before I even began to type the first word. My comfort level with regard to speaking my own unsavory truths has become paper thin. I just don’t want to rock the boat on my already tumultuous seas. To put it another more delicate way, I already have enough shit to deal with and have no interest in adding more to the therapy heap.

If you’ve been following my mental meanderings for months or years, you have probably noticed that I sometimes disappear from the blogosphere for several months at a time. In the past, this has stemmed from a lack of time or straight up writer’s block. But that’s not what has been happening to me lately. I am busy as all get out, but there have been stories and inspiration to spare. The problem is that I am so concerned about hurting someone’s feelings, overstepping my bounds, or saying the wrong thing that my mental edits have been leaving the remaining words with a dull hollow ring. The raw emotion is stripped away, and I leave myself with puddle deep platitudes.

I’m tired of running circles in my mind about the imaginary thoughts of others. I’m over worrying about if someone might misread what I’m saying or, even worse, might not misread my words. For better or for worse, I have been given this voice and the call continues to throb in my mind. My mental censors have been on overdrive for too long and I’m utterly sick of it. I’m going to write whatever I want to write and no one else has to read it. If it offends you, read something else. If you think it’s about you, you’re probably wrong, but maybe ask yourself why you think that or, more importantly, DON’T. Don’t worry about it. These are my ramblings. They aren’t about you. This is about me. My crap. My issues. My journey. It’s the Jo Show and there’s enough happening in my one woman circus without bringing in additional side acts to manage. I’m over the silence. I’m tired of the gag. Screw the filters. It’s time to write again.

How Deep is the Water – A Flood of Anxiety

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A dear friend of mine has a daughter who just began her new life at college. It’s not in Houston, but it’s only about an hour’s drive away. No biggie. She’s a good kid, a strong student, and the type of person whom you know will be successful. Life has dealt her some very hard kicks, but she is resilient and will not be defeated by the adversity that confronts her.

But she is drowning in this new world of college. The days have barely begun, and all she can focus on is getting back home. Her separation anxiety is off the charts, and she is missing her family to the point of being locked in place and utterly inconsolable. She feels like she is going under and sheer panic has taken hold.

I understand this feeling far too well. My husband and I went on a trip overseas many years ago. While we were there, I badgered him into taking the hotel’s Cliff’s Notes version of scuba (a.k.a “An Inappropriately Brief Summary of How Not to Die While Swimming Deep in the Ocean”). An 18 year old trainer gave us the ten minute speech (that in reality should have been explained in a classroom over multiple days of training), slapped some tanks on our backs, and plopped us into the resort pool.

 I. Freaked. Out.

We are talking a complete and total meltdown. Massive claustrophobia. Unimaginable terror about being unable to get enough oxygen. Horrific fear about drowning. All of it. I was very literally hyperventilating into my regulator and tears were streaming down my face inside my mask. It was absolutely terrifying.

My husband had been swimming a few feet away from me and immediately recognized that I was circling the mental drain. In his old soul wisdom, he knew that he had to intervene and proceeded to do something that truly saved me. He grabbed my shoulders, pushed me up out of the water, and said with a seriously annoyed tone, “Dude – Stand up.”

In my terror (a.k.a. complete doofus attack), I had literally forgotten that we were in the most shallow of shallow ends. Of a frickin pool. At a hotel.

The water was maybe 4 feet deep. Probably more like 3.

Embarrassing. So so embarrassing.

The anxiety attack was immediately gone only to be replaced by an “I’m a dumbass” attack. As I was too humiliated to continue showing my face above water, I dropped into the pool once more and of course knew from that point on that I was a-okay. Later that day I did a 40 foot dive without batting an eye. A couple of years and multiple certifications later, I went to almost 140 feet. But this isn’t about that kind of depth.

We sometimes feel like we are drowning in a flood of debilitating fear when we are in unfamiliar surroundings. We lose our sense of safety and control, and we begin to spiral wildly. The trick is to recognize when the depth of terror is of our own making. Sometimes it takes another person to jar us out of our anti-fantasy, but ideally we learn to find a way to recognize the delusion so we can then snap ourselves out of it.

Change is terrifying, and staring into the unknown rattles us all. But more often than not, the water is nowhere near as deep as we imagine it to be. In most cases, we truly just need to remember to stand up.

The floodwaters of anxiety cannot be allowed to overpower you or steal your hope and joy. Stand up so you can see who is standing by your side in support. Stand up and be willing to distinguish what is a true threat versus what is simply unknown. Stand up and realize that you are okay in this moment and that you can release the panic that distracts your mind and obscures your purpose.

And after you have regained your confidence and maybe even laughed at the comedy of your overreaction, you can dive in once more and at last begin to see the world of wonders just waiting to be discovered. ❤️

Big hugs to you all.  Jo

Winks from the Universe

Do you ever get the feeling that the universe is sending you little divine winks to confirm that you are heading in the right direction? I think that I often miss them, but I suspect that this is not indicative of their absence.

I don’t believe in an inherently right or wrong path as there are innumerable choices we can make in every minute of each day. But even within those countless shades of possibilities that endlessly color our moments, I do experience times when I feel like I’m truly resonating with something important – like I’m making contact with the part of my soul that is so much bigger than my day to day life. I feel like I’m following a course that will allow me to spread the wings I innately have that are uniquely my own. The moments come and go in a flash, but when they happen, they leave a beautiful imprint on my spirit.

When I’m in that place, I find myself noticing funny little happenstances that only I would recognize. It can be a friendly text coming in from a person dancing around my thoughts. Sometimes it’s a surprisingly well-timed song on the radio. And this evening, it was bumping into a friend and having him unexpectedly share with me that he enjoys reading my writing – a surprising confession and a beautiful compliment.

Please note that I’ll be the first person to tell you that this isn’t earth-shattering stuff. Nevertheless those little unexpected moments reinforce the significance of the positive thoughts and actions we enact. They remind us that although we may be surrounded by a boundless universe and are mere specks of matter in the grand cosmic equation, what we do matters and who we are matters. These winks confirm in the most personal of ways that no moment of our existence is inconsequential.

So this is my little wink back to the universe. A hat tip if you will. Thank you for encouraging me forward. Thank you for reminding me once more to release more of the fear and place more of my energy in trust.

Thank you also to my friend for his kind words. I appreciated them more than he could possibly know and needed to hear them more than I could have realized. Truly – thank you.

Big hugs to all. Jo

Feeling Lost – Destination Unknown

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I have serious trust issues. If I am going somewhere with other people, I insist on driving my own car. I struggle with surprises of any kind unless I am on the planning side of the equation. I share my deepest hurts with a very select group of people. And I am most comfortable when I can keep the majority of the world at arm’s length (or ideally much more) despite my surface smile and boisterous laughter. I have been this way for as long as I can remember, and frankly, I’m comfortable with those boundaries.

The problem that I face is that my trust issues have a terrible tendency of extending to my comfort with the unknown plans of the Universe. Although I feel an extreme aversion to pushing my faith on others (unless you share my bed or carry 50% of my genes and then you are going to get an earful regularly), I don’t question the existence of God (Holy Trinity / Divine Spirit / Universe / Higher Power / Your Preferred Term Here). Divine plans have consistently blown my own ideas out of the water despite my incessant trepidation, and I have always been cared for even in the darkest of times. I know that there is no need to worry about what will happen in my life.

Yet I do worry. Constantly.

I question what will happen next. What move I should make. What plans I should follow. What direction I should go.

I constantly seek control of this spiritual experience we refer to as being human. A huge part of me recognizes the ironic humor in my futile attempts to control the uncontrollable while the other part fails to recognize the joke. I may aim my ship in one direction or another, yet I will never have any control over the wind that will carry me forward.

Nevertheless, I will find solid ground. Even though I might not be able to read the map of my future, I will be given direction. There is a path for me even though I can’t perceive it at this point in my journey. I have a purpose. A big important and wonderfully special purpose. We all do.

The Universe’s plan for us is not dependent on our willingness to trust that it’s there. However, it sure would make the trip more fun if we could remember to always enjoy the ride, to never forget to take in the scenery, and to be aware of appreciating the smallest of beautiful moments along the way.

Though we may feel like we are hopelessly adrift, we are never lost. We are on the path during each day that we live, and every moment is a new destination waiting to be recognized and adored. You are already where you are supposed to be, and so am I.

Perhaps instead of asking ourselves what our lives will be like once we get to wherever we are going, we need to ask ourselves what we want our lives to be like at this point in the journey right now. The moment is here.

So what’s your next move? What should you be celebrating in your life and in your spirit right now?

Hugs and hope, love and light always.  Jo