Thursday, July 3, 2014

A life saving realization

There is so much god damn great poetry in the world, it's mind-boggling and overwhelming.

Know that just the right poem exists for you, right now. In fact, there is probably one from each century since 900AD if you know where to look.

Here are a couple I've come across tonight that save me. Tell me I am not alone. Tell me I will come through this, as I have before. As you have before. As the author has too. There is power in that knowing.

I have had a rough patch recently, but I feel like I am, perhaps, under the lit sign at the corner, letting it all go and pausing to watch for a moment...


by Dorianne Laux

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punch line, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don't bother remembering any of it. Let's stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

Then there is this one. Just try to stay unhappy. Just try to. Good luck.

Gnostics on Trial

by Linda Gregg

Let us make the test. Say God wants you
to be unhappy. That there is no good.
That there are horrors in store for us
if we do manage to move toward Him.
Say you keep Art in its place, not too high.
And that everything, even eternity, is measurable.
Look at the photographs of the dead,
both natural (one by one) and unnatural
in masses. All tangled. You know about that.
And can put Beauty in its place. Not too high,
and passing. Make love our search for unhappiness,
which is His plan to help us.
Disregard that afternoon breeze from the Aegean
on a body almost asleep in the shuttered room.
Ignore melons, and talking with friends.
Try to keep from rejoicing. Try
to keep from happiness. Just try.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Springtime Poem aka A Prayer for Renewal

Everything is Glad of Me

The quails I disrupt
on their morning walk
scatter in flight,
their wings purring around me.

The ice floe of clouds
slowly shifts
to allow
a glimpse of the sea.

The 100 bees
I hear
buzzing in the tree
land, but do not sting.

The daffodils turn
their bonnet heads
to watch me
as I write.

The wind,
so strong a few days ago,
now sweetly blows
the hair from my eyes.

My shadow lengthens
as I grow
tall enough to touch
the rising moon.

The red bench
stays warm,
welcomes me with
my lover's arms.

~jessica johnson 2013

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mother's Day

I remembered this poem on Mother's Day.

The thought of it has lingered for days now. This morning I opened my laptop before work to dig it out. I changed a couple of small things in it, made a few small adjustments.

Let me know what you think.

I think about my mom so often, probably more than I did when she was alive and healthy to be honest. I am not sure what that says about me, her, or our relationship. I'm not sure it matters.

In any event, here is this - one slice of the pie that was our relationship.


After I pushed my marriage over the cliff
I came to your house
looking for comfort and support

it was dinnertime.

Dad was pissed that you
turned off the TV to
sit with me
on the couch your arms

around me like a mother.

In an effort to stay connected
we met for brunch
French restaurant

cherries on the tablecloth.

As we each looked out the window
you told me secrets I had suspected
things we knew made us

more alike than we wanted to admit.

Another time, dinner
a small dish of green beans
on the table between us
we ate them

with our fingers.

Over Kung Pao I asked you serious questions
What about motherhood?
You started so young, was it worth it?
You said: it will change your life.

What kind of daughters had you wanted?
You wanted to raise independent women, you said.
Smart women who could take care of themselves
we agreed you were successful

if that was your goal.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On

Day 24: Describe Yourself

[seriously? ugh. i have been sitting on this "assignment" for at least a couple of weeks. it is so difficult for me to even begin that i have to trick myself. this is how i am doing it: i am writing a letter to someone who is going to meet me for the first time and knows nothing about me. here goes...]

Jessica is tall, about 5' 9" and has super-short hair. You will probably notice her when she walks in. Oh, just so you know, she is usually late. Not super late, but 5-10 minute variety late. I know she's been working on it, but, just so you know...

You will probably notice her walk in if you are there waiting for her. Like I said, she is tall and has super short hair, so that makes her stand out. She is probably in workout clothes because she is a PE teacher. She likes to dress up though, so she might have on something else. She has taken to wearing dresses lately because it's easier and they are more flattering to her curvier, fuller than normal figure. She has told me that she feels fine nude, but when she has to "shove her body into jeans" she feels less good about herself, so she is trying to avoid that whole fiasco by wearing dresses whenever possible. Plus they are more feminine and sexy and people react like she is dressed up when it was really very easy to pull a dress over her head.

I think Jessica has a great smile - she gets told that all the time, but she doesn't hear the good stuff as easily as she hears the negative. Her mom was known for having a great smile too, so it's a nice thing to have passed on. Her mom died a few years ago from severe early onset dementia at the age of 61. Jessica and her sister were there when it happened. She has written some really wonderful stuff about it. That said, if you comment on her forgetting stuff she may be sensitive to it. She will laugh it off, but I think it is something that is always in the back of her mind. She is very much like her mother, and that's really a pretty good thing for the most part. Now that her daughter is a teen, she really notices it and, like many women of her age, it takes some adjusting to.

Jessica is super easy to talk to. I can't think of much that shocks her and she is pretty open to hearing about anyone's opinion. She may not agree with you, but she believes everyone is entitled to a well-thought  out argument. There are a few things that will get her going, but I will leave that up to you to discover. Seriously though, she is super open and prefers real, deep conversations over small chit chat. She would rather sit quietly or be alone than have to make small talk.

Speaking of being alone - man, she loves that! I think she needs alone time more than most people. She probably fantasizes about being a hermit or something. Since she thinks too much (she would totally tell you she does, so I am not at all taking behind her back) and she works at an elementary school she craves quiet time after work. She is not much of a morning person, per se, but she gets up early most mornings to meditate.

If she could be anything I think Jessica would be an author. A novelist or memoirist along the lines of Anne Lamott. I think she would be great at that. That she would really be a) good at it and b) at peace with that line of work. If she could be a semi-famous author who "sold-out" a little and optioned a manuscript to be a moderately successful cheesy hollywood movie and could earn enough money to live simply and continue to write and publish she would be happy. She is fully aware, however, that happiness is an inside job, and just because one does or has something does not, ergo, make them happy. So whatever you do, don't preach to her about that! She can be quick tempered, and if you happen to catch her on a day where she is under time pressure and has had no quiet time...yikes. I pity you. You may not forget her harsh words or actions, but it will be water long under the bridge to her with a  quickness. She generally doesn't hold grudges and I think she gets annoyed if you do. She kinda likes to let all that bad air out (yes, that is a hint. don't feed her too much dairy...) Yeah, she's got a juvenile sense of humor and thinks farts are funny. Always hers. Sometimes others. Like her kids'.

She has two children who are the true loves of her life. She is super protective of them, like all moms are, and adores them fiercely. Family is of utmost importance to her and this includes her friends who are like family...and family who are like friends. She has experienced her happiest moments recently when surrounded by both - at thanksgiving and christmas and her daughter's birthday slumber party when she got to relish the moment of being "that house" where everyone ran in and out and ate and laughed and had a good time. She really likes that stuff. She is grateful for her health, the health of her family and her good fortune in meeting a wonderful man to call her sweetie.

Speaking of the health of her family - she may downplay it, but she donated a kidney to her sister last spring. I swear it was like she knew she would be a perfect match and I never once heard her question her decision to undergo such a drastic procedure. She and her sister are pretty close you could say. I'm sure that made the decision easier.

Well, that ought to help you pick her out of a crowd. Just look for the tall, curvy, healthy woman with the bright smile, pretty brown eyes, and quick laugh. That's her.


Sunday, February 2, 2014


This is usually where I quit. Give up. Stop. Make excuses in my head and to others as to why I have stopped blogging. Or writing. Or working out. Or eating better. Or limiting my Facebook or email or eBay or random scrolling time. Or going to yoga. Or meditating every day. Or walking every morning. Or letting go of the shoulds and the maybe ifs and the if onlys and the whens...

This is where I quit.

I have quit a lot of things.

  • Two marriages. 
  • A few business ideas (so long, FavorSaver, The Mommy Lane, The Mindful Studio)
  • Several blogs (vinegar and vanilla still hangs on...but Simple Yogini, One Small Thing and like riding a bike...while texting - all dead in the water. or ether. whatev.) 
  • Many, many retail jobs (Palapas, Mixit in JC Penney's, Fleet Feet, the exercise wear place in the Stonestown Mall, the clothing store in the mall in Tucson, the clothing store in the mall in San Mateo) 
  • restaurant jobs: Shadowbrook, Birk's, Los Gatos Cafe, Milano's in Worcester, Massachusetts (after working there I understood and appreciated Denis Leary), The Sturbridge Bistro, the mexican place at the Ventana Resort in Tucson where I was the tequila shooter girl, some other restaurant in Tucson.
  • healthcare jobs - clinic manager at the Santa Cruz Women's Health Center (the worst work experience I have ever had and the beginning of my professional self-doubt), counselor at an abortion clinic in Springfield, MA, office assistant and intake counselor at a family planning clinic also in Springfield. 
  • jobs in the education field - International Professional Programs assistant at UCSC Extension in Santa Clara, high school English teacher, Student Athlete Success graduate intern at the University of Hartford, Intro to Sports Psych instructor at Holyoke Community College, Marketing and Outreach coordinator at DeAnza College (after 9/11 this new mom decided she didn't want to be so far away from her baby).
  • Admin and misc jobs - secretarial jobs through a temp agency - which led to a full-time job with a berry producer and broker, program manager at P3M (an up and coming marketing agency during the bubble. Technically they laid me off - right after I came back from maternity leave), program manager at McDill and SMG (small boutique marketing and PR shops), freelance writer for local papers and small circulation national magazines, press releases, grants, web copy, business plan writing for a variety of small businesses and non-profits. Published poet. Personal Trainer. Coach. Summer sports camp counselor.
  • Many workout plans - my great track comeback 2 years after I was done at SFSU - I trained with the famed Remy Korchemy for a few short weeks. He was busted for giving his athletes performance enhancing drugs many years later. He told me I could easily run under 13 in the hurdles. I had a mini-breakdown and quit training with him. My great master's track comebacks - how many times have I said I was going to drop 10, 20, 30 pounds and take on the other 30 year olds, 40 year olds, 45 year olds...?
  • Bodybuilding. 'Nuff said. 
  • Novelist (I have over 100 pages done of one novel and the first chapter of at least 3 more...) Short story writer. Memoirist. 
I quit shit. I admit it. 

I have good ideas, good intentions and crave success, acknowledgement, accolades. But as soon as the initial adrenaline high of the good idea wears off, I struggle. I am overcome with self-doubt. I have been told that I quit when it becomes tough. When the real work starts. Maybe this is true. 

As far as this blog goes, last week I began to feel like this introspection was just yet another replay of my habitual "hey this is a great idea!" routine. It felt self-indulgent. Like, Really, Jessica, who gives a shit about your stupid body issues? Or that you don't know what your passion in life is or what you should be when you grow up? We have heard this before. It's old. We are tired of hearing it. 

The reality is - I am tired of hearing it. I am tired of thinking too much about my first world problems. Acceptance, surrender, resignation -- what's the difference? It's a fine, fine, line...