Friday, December 19, 2014

It's Only Money

I just did something very irresponsible.

For Maya.

She better like it!

It was expensive, more than I can afford. But I did it anyways.

You ever do something like that? Just a spur of the moment, impulsive action because it seems right?

This has been an interesting week - a former student of mine who was just a teen lost his life to leukemia. And another young child Maya's age passed away too.

And I have a dear friend who has breast cancer (thankfully she is kicking it's ass!) and a lifelong friend's dad passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago.

It's just money.

I have some retirement savings. Not much, but some, which is better than nothing. It's not enough to retire on, and it's not really even enough to let me breathe easy, but it's something.

And I contribute a tiny bit to a 401k. I have a permanent position at the county which is steady employment.

My pap smear and my mammogram both came back clean.

I guess I feel like celebrating life a little. Taking a chance. Opening my tight fist so that money can flow out...AND IN.

Normally if I had spent like this I would be a tight ball of anxiety. I'd be in the middle of a sweaty bout of buyer's remorse.

Not today. Not this month.

I'm not being irresponsible - I haven't gone out and bought the red soled Louboutin's I will buy when I'm a best-selling author. Or the closet full of cashmere I really want.

I'm giving my daughter an amazing, affirming experience and calling it Christmas and Birthday and Momma Love all rolled into one.

And I'm heart and hand open for the abundance that will come my way to fill the empty wallet. Because nature abhors a vacuum, right?

Because life is to be lived and we all deserve to have fun with our peeps while we can.

With heart and hand open,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My 46th Year in Review: Part One

Each year I like to look back at my journals, Facebook posts, blog posts, daily calendar, etc., to review the year. Where was I this time last year? What did I do right this year? What would I like to change? What are my goals and dreams for the coming year?

It helps me recognize what I have done (since I often gloss over my accomplishments in favor of beating myself up over what i haven't done) and refocus for the coming year.

The fortunate thing is that my birthday is in December, so it works well with an "end of the year" evaluation. Of course, my birthday was over a week ago now and guess what I have been doing? Telling myself that I "should have done the evaluation" ON my birthday. That I'm late on it. That I SHOULD HAVE done it already. Which brings me nose to nose with my first, ugliest realization: I am too hard on myself.

This, I'm sure, comes as no surprise to many of you. And I'm sure any of you are too hard on yourselves as well. But this year I realized it. Like, viscerally. As in "I get it, Universe, I really do."

I think of this phrase that I wrote down after hearing it somewhere: "Don't should on yourself."

Ooops, I think I stepped in something.

Now, to be fair to myself I have been this way for a very, very long time. As a kid I can remember essentially grounding myself. Once I taught my little sister some bad words on accident while I was babysitting her. When my parents got home she proudly shared her newfound vocabulary and, unfortunately, my attempts to brainwash her that I had actually said "Truck and ship" were for naught.

Let's just say I went straight to my room and didn't come out except for meals and school. For a few days. What's more, I can remember at least one other instance where I did the same thing - an intentional self-grounding. I must have been in high school and who knows what I did, since I didn't have many restrictions. Nonetheless I did something I knew upset - or worse, "disappointed" - my parents and I clearly remember essentially just staying in my room, not talking to them, not asking for anything, for a week.

I am sure that if we really wanted to dig deeply we could come up with some analysis about my parents and their parenting style (or lack thereof) and the roles that children and parents adopt in order to adapt, but I am not interested in airing that particular pile of dirty laundry right now. (I know, a sudden bout of modesty or privacy - what's happened to me?) ;-)

In any event, I am hard on myself. Harder than those around me are (thank goodness!) And I have a very long history of being hard on myself. It is a difficult pattern to break. But, like so many things in life, awareness of the issue is the first step. It was during a day-long meditation I attended this year that I really understood how much pressure and stress I bring to myself, by myself.

You know, I trained for years to be a hurdler. Get over the obstacle in your way and immediately focus on the next one. There is no time in-between obstacles to relish the fact that you got over the hurdle successfully - without banging your knee or tripping over it. You keep your head up, your eyes on the horizon, and keep running as fast as you can. Even at the end of the race you review it - see where you can tweak this or adjust that or do the other better next time.

The thing is this: if you are always looking to the next challenge, always critiquing your performance, you miss the space in between. The sweet space where you get to enjoy the run, the race. You miss the feeling of the sun on your skin, the power of your legs, the strength of your body in motion. You miss the joy of the win.

During the daylong mediation we became open to hearing what it was we needed to do next and I heard the message loud and clear:

Cut yourself some slack.

So, for year 47 and all the rest I am gifted beyond that, goal #1 is this: To quit shoulding on myself and cut myself some slack.

In relief,

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Because I have not been the nicest person lately.

Because I can not see the trees for the forest. Nor the forest for the trees. (There is truth in both.)

Because it is not just fear itself I fear, but success.

Because I feel the pressure and it makes me turn on my self in an unhealthy, cannibalistic way that is difficult to witness.

For these reasons I need to recognize the grace and good in my life today. Here goes:

1) The Giants won! (My late boss was a fan. Here's to you Bobby Lee!)

2) I am healthy.

3) I have an awesome endocrinologist.

4) I have health insurance.

5) I have an IRA.

6) My children are thriving in school and life.

7) I am able to take some credit for #6.

8) It's supposed to rain tomorrow. I love rain. Today I am grateful for the anticipation of rain. ;-)

9) A specific co-worker who reads and appreciates my poems. And me.

10)My honey loves me even when he has to witness me being cruel to myself. He is patient and kind and for that I am thankful.

11) I am reading a sublime and subtle book that makes me think of my dad - I can't wait to pass it on to him when I am done.

12) Coffee

13) Chocolate

14) My new "too expensive" tee-shirts. Super comfy, high-quality and I feel good in them.

15) Plans with friends tonight.

16) Reese's are gluten-free.

17) I've seen a mock-up for a cover for my book!!!


Superman Has a Hole in His Cape

Tell me again Superman
How sorry you are
for touching the Kryptonite.

And you, Icarus, for flying
too close to the sun.
I see your singed feathers,
can smell the burnt pride from here.

Do you have to make them into a head-dress
and parade around in front of your friends?

And you, dear Knight in Shining Armor,
your armor has been dinged.
Right there, it’s a small hole, can't you see it?

In fact, now that I know it’s there,
no longer blinded by the gleam of your silver suit,
I am afraid it's all I can see.

What a day you've all had, my Heroes.
How quickly your fortunes changed.
One step in the wrong direction
and you tumble off the pedestal.

What's that?
Can I help you climb back up?
Oh no fine sir, you've got to do that by yourself.

This Wonder Woman has bullets of her own to dodge,
lives to save. In fact,
one of them may be her own.

~ jessica johnson 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Big Money Lie: A follow-up

The point of my post about money was quite simply that even though I say money is important to me, my actions say otherwise. That while money is important as far as taking care of the essentials like food, housing, transportation, clothing, etc., beyond that it is simply NOT a main motivator for me. I know a few people who are totally motivated by money (and I am not talking about my children!) Folks who went to school with the sole purpose of earning a degree that would allow them to make the most money possible. Then they entered the workforce and made their career decisions based on their ability to make money.

Traditionally this has been a man's domain, supposedly. However I know plenty of women who are (or were) money motivated as well. Many of these men and women are successful. Certainly more financially successful than I. But that is exactly the point - money clearly is not that important to me. And yet, it seems like it ought to be much more important based on the percentage of time I spend thinking and complaining about it - how much I need, how little I make, how to make more, how to spend less, etc.

So, here is the conundrum of the day: If money is indeed not all that important to me then why don't I drop the charade that it is important? I think if I were able to do that I would be happier. If I was more conscious about my decisions around money and how I have made them perhaps I would feel less intense emotion about money issues. If I were able to be really, deeply satisfied with my choices and be OK with how they have affected my financial situation then would that free me at all from this feeling of lack?

Initially I dropped out of the workforce because being a new mom and working full-time proved to be too much for me to handle and it seemed as if we could manage financially. I worked part-time so we were able to avoid massive childcare costs. I worked for a while as a freelance writer and then, as that didn't pay much and I felt I needed to contribute more to the family's financial bottom line, I took another part-time job. After being there for a while I got pregnant again and when my son was born I continued to work for the same agency on a very part-time basis.

Then I decided to get my teaching credential. I believed teaching would be a family friendly profession. Frankly, I was also concerned about the stability and long-term future of my marriage and made the conscious decision to rejoin the workforce in the event that I would someday need to support myself and my children on my own. I took most of my classes on-line at night and clearly remember putting the kids to bed, dozing off with them, hearing my wristwatch alarm go off at 9, getting up to brew some coffee and then doing homework until midnight. This was a difficult time, but I believed in what I was doing and I always loved taking classes so for the most part I enjoyed it. Come to find out this was one of the most difficult times for my then husband and things that were put into motion then eventually contributed to the final demise of our marriage years later. Clearly, considering my intent when I began studying for my credential, this was not a total surprise.

Teaching was indeed a family-friendly profession. Even though I began my career in a different district with different academic schedules there was enough vacation overlap that our family functioned well. Money was decent and I was happy to be contributing to the family kitty. When the time came that my marriage did end, and I did need to support myself and my kids, the work helped. I was working only part-time at that point, so money was tight, but the schedule was ideal. By this time I was working at my kids' school and the fact that I got to be at school with them and see them even if they weren't at my house that day was invaluable. Truly priceless.

Cut to today - I have a job that I enjoy. I appreciate the potential stability it offers (once I make it off probation in a few weeks) and the opportunity to put money away and rebuild savings that have been decimated through divorce. I enjoy the people I work with, the work engages me but doesn't consume me, I don't have too much responsibility (I really hate pressure) and so far it is going well.

The money, on the other hand, is not so good. Considering my years - and level of experience - in the workforce as well as my level of education I am grossly underpaid. That said, my pay is appropriate for the position and I know several people here in this office who are in similar positions. The job market is tough, so I am thankful for what I have...most of them time. :-)

As my close friends have gently pointed out given my history of job unrest - work happiness is priceless!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Big Money Lie

Next to my unexpected, unabated mid-life weight gain the thing I stress and complain about the most is money - specifically, my lack of it. I have always had money anxiety. I suppose this comes from being the child of a young mother who supported us with food stamps when I was young. I grew up hearing “we don’t have the money” more times than I can remember. It’s not that I grew up wanting for the basics – we always had food and clothing and were well taken care of – but the answer to many of my requests was, “we can’t afford it.”

It is my understanding that the things we hear over and over as children and youngsters become ingrained in our minds and our psyches and continue to influence us throughout our lives. If a child’s parents tell them that they are worthless or stupid they will continue to hear that tape in the background of their daily lives for a very long time. Further, those critical voices can wreak havoc later in life when the child has grown – maybe the idea that they are stupid will prohibit them from having confidence in school. Constantly being told they are worthless can affect how they interact with others and what type of treatment they are willing to take in social, work, or personal interactions. Constantly telling a child there isn't enough money leaves a child feeling a sense of instability and lack. At least it did to this child.

There is a tape that is constantly looping in the back of my mind – the one about money – or lack thereof. The soundtrack that tells me I can’t afford it, that money is tight and always will be. That tape has most certainly affected me and how I have lived my life, handled money and interacted with people who I percieve "have money". It has affected my perception of what I am worth, and what I can accomplish financially. When my sweetie and I discovered a great opportunity that would allow us to move in together with our assorted children and animals I nearly shut us out of the chance before we even tried. The kids and I drove to the neighborhood to check out the house and it was a neighborhood I had never been to before. The houses looked huge and fancy and much, much nicer than anything anyone in my family had ever lived in. I began to panic – I mean I literally had an anxiety attack. I got tense, my palms got sweaty on the steering wheel, and I felt extremely anxious. “Oh,” I said to the kids, “we can’t live here. No. Nope, can’t do it. This is not our neighborhood. Sorry.”

Meanwhile my kids, bless their unjaded hearts, were like, “What are you talking about Mom? This is awesome! Look at the grass and the houses! They are great! We want to live here! This is totally where we are living.”

A couple of nights later I had a dream…it was like a dream state epiphany in which the fallacy of my belief about the neighborhood was made clear to me. It was a strange event – not really a dream, more like a revelation - where the glass ceiling, the limits that I had put upon myself for no good nor logical reason were shown to me. The absurdity became real and fully visible. It was astonishing.

Long story short, we live in that house now. It is a wonderful house with plenty of room for all of us to be together – and apart as well – but I have come to realize it is just a house like any other. And frankly, we don’t use all the space we have. But it was an important step for me to live in a house like this and come to that realization for myself because I had always assumed, for whatever reason, that people who lived in houses like that were not like me and that I would never live like that. I believed that it was beyond me. That I could never afford it.

The other thing I have come to realize in the past year since we have lived in the house is that I say money is important to me - in particular making more money. Now that is true, to an extent. I have recently had to make changes in my work life to adjust to changes in my personal life and I do want/need/plan to become 100% financially self-sufficient in the next few years. It’s extra challenging living here, in expensive Santa Cruz where most families require two good incomes to live comfortably. The price we pay to live here is high.

And yet, no matter how much I complain and worry about not having enough money (and complain and worry I do – just ask my friends and sweetie) the bottom line is this: as long as I have my family’s basic needs covered I am not willing to sacrifice time nor sanity for more money. I have realized that for all the time I spend ranting and raving about being broke, or near to it (is that reality? Or is it an old tape playing? Perhaps a little of both. The soundtrack always makes the monster seem bigger.) I am very clear on what I will and will not do for more income.

I made the switch from part-time outdoor work to full-time, indoor, cubicle style 8-5 highly secure work, but the secret is this: I really like the new job. Even though I bring home about the same as I did working part-time, I have to acknowledge that I am also contributing to the security I so desperately desire: a retirement account, pre-tax dependent care, accurate tax withholdings, good health insurance.

Would I leave this job that I like (which is HUGE for me) for more money elsewhere? Perhaps, but it would have to be the right job. I would not drive further than I have to drive now – too much time on the road, too much distance between me and home and my sweetie and my babies. I don’t want to take on a position that has a lot of responsibility because I am enjoying the rest from having a job that did (teaching is a big responsibility – even though it seems like fun, it is a very serious undertaking to hold the little one’s lives and psyches in your hands and learn about their fears and scars and homelives.) I enjoy having the freedom that comes from a job where you don’t arrive before 8; you take your breaks, don’t skip your lunch hour and leave your desk – no matter what – at 5:00. There is some very real freedom in that. The mental space I have now gives me time to think. I have even begun to hear something I haven’t heard in a while…the whisper of the Muse. And that, as you well know, is worth a lot!

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...


Thursday, January 23, 2014

What is it about my belly?

I've been (probably over) thinking about my body dissatisfaction.

So here's the thing: I have to admit that I have thought to myself if only I had a flatter stomach I could live with the rest of my body. Sure I have a big booty, but I can live with that. But if my stomach was flat, and my waist smaller, then I'd be ok.  

When I really spent time thinking about it, I recognized the feeling that maybe my belly fat is protecting me. I have created a protective layer between my vulnerable abdomen - and all that lives there - and the world. This makes sense on a couple of significant levels. 

First, my abdomen was literally cut open nearly a year ago. I had a healthy kidney removed from my body and placed into my sister's body. [See Frankenbelly below:]

And that got me wondering, what is it about my belly?  Why is that the specific focus of my dissatisfaction? What is it that a few extra inches around my hips doesn't do, but a few extra around my mid-section does?

I imagine it takes a while to fully recover from organ donation, perhaps even longer than the doctors would have you believe. I feel recovered, but every once in a while I stretch too much and something pops deep inside - something let's go. Scar tissue? Old habits? False perceptions?  

However, I was wondering if there was more to it, this physical protection of my vulnerable core. I began looking into the symbology of the belly. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, "Angst about the body robs a woman in some large share of her creative life and her attention to other things." This is particularly interesting when you consider that the belly is also the location of the second chakra. Your body is known to have seven chakras - each one is a center of spiritual power within our bodies.

According to the  Chopra Center, the second chakra "is associated with creativity and birth―both literally to a new baby but also metaphorically to new aspects of ourselves, projects and ideas...[W]hen this chakra becomes congested, we may experience a block in our creative powers and a sense of dryness or emptiness."  It is not surprising then, with the amount of change I have recently gone through, that I may be protective of that tender, vulnerable part of myself. 

Now that I am on the other side of my mother's prolonged illness and death at age 61 from severe early onset dementia; the breakdown and eventual end of a long-term, emotionally abusive marriage; the successful life-saving kidney donation to my sister; as well as positive changes - like a new, healthy romantic relationship - is it time to release myself from such real, physical, tangible protection of my vital organs? 

I also read that the second chakra governs one's sense of self-worth. This really resonated with me, since I am clearly struggling with my sense of self and perceived worthiness.  Who am I, really? What good am I entitled to, and how can I manifest good things in my life? What do I really want and do I feel I deserve it? Can I accept the possibility that what I want is within reach? When will I release old beliefs that are holding me back? Can I let them go? 

These are the questions I am contemplating as I move forward with this deep introspection and move toward fierce and radical self-acceptance. I believe that when I am really ready, really feeling safe and secure, the protective layer of adipose tissue will let go, dissolve away. Or maybe it won't and I won't care anymore, because I will know and value who I am, deep down, below the outer shell that covers me, but isn't me, just as the thick paint strokes of a Van Gogh or Monet only serve to add depth, interest, and tangible character to a larger work of art.


Current fabubellyness. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 13 : Define Beautiful

What does the word "beautiful" mean to you? When are you compelled to use the word to describe a person? 

When do I think to myself, "wow, she is beautiful!"?

I have thought that about women who are confident, in a subtle way. I see beauty in a woman who seems comfortable in her skin, a woman who (usually) doesn't wear a ton of make-up. One who has her own sense of style - knows her strengths and plays to them, is smart about what she draws attention to, and what she doesn't. I admire women who make bold fashion choices, who own their sense of self. Confidence. Definitely. Natural, not overdone (though I do think there is a time and place for that and if that's your thing then own it!)

Relaxed. Natural. Healthy. Confident. At peace with themselves. Caring. Open. Joyful. Laughing. 

Here are some images I have come across of women I think are beautiful:

And, for good measure and evidence of possible progress, a time I think I looked beautiful: 

In Beauty, 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 12: Realize That Your Dissatisfaction Is Not About Your Body

Say what?
I've been thinking about this question (as posed by Rosie Molinary in her book, beautiful you, that I am working through/with) for the last 36 hours or so:
 "If we find ourselves consumed with body hatred, dissatisfaction, and preoccupation, our issue is likely not about our bodies at all. It is about something else that has kept us from maintaining perspective about our perceived imperfections." 
Well, Ok....I can get my head around the logic there, the idea, yeah, sure. But where I get hung up is:  what then, is my issue? What is the true root of my dissatisfaction?

Right now I feel like the proverbial horse led to water. I'm there, staring into the mossy tub of cool, refreshing water, I just ain't drinking.  For whatever reason I just can't get my nose down far enough to pierce the mirrored reflection staring back at me. Yeah, Jessica, what is it, really, that you are dissatisfied with? 

I shouldn't be dissatisfied with anything. I have a loving partner (who, it should be noted, loves my body just the way it is - and I believe him), two healthy children, a solid network of super-supportive, wonderful, life-long friends who are like family to me, a close relationship with key family members, a tolerable job, a wonderful, comfortable home, a reliable vehicle.

On the surface I would say I am least satisfied with my work and financial lives - as intertwined as they are. My job is often fulfilling, but perhaps not quite intellectually challenging or varied enough for me. The pay is not enough to support me and my family. It is part-time work.

On the way plus side, my job affords me a fantastic schedule, with tons of "free" time. Which, to me, is worth a lot. More than a lot. In fact, I am not sure I could actually cope with a "regular" full-time, 8-5 kind of job.

I need to work full-time, because I want to be able to support myself and my children without having to rely on others. I want to take care of my financial life so that I can someday retire and also be able to send my kids on school trips and help them with a college education or a life-changing, eye-opening, heart-expanding trip around the world.

I need to be stimulated, intellectually. I want a somewhat flexible job that rewards me financially and challenges me, encourages me to grow, and that offers real, visible room for advancement. I am goal-oriented. I like to receive regular feedback about my performance. I love positive reinforcement.

Hmmm, I sound like an athlete!

Maybe my dissatisfaction has something to do with not feeling accomplished. When I was competing I knew immediately how well I did - my place and time were tangible results. I had a coach who told me what to do, when to do it and if I did it well. And if I did not do it well, what I needed to do to improve next time. And frankly, I usually DID improve. I worked hard. I was dedicated. I enjoyed the challenge and the variety. I enjoyed the travel, meeting new people, going to new places, always having new goals.

I thrived upon the accomplishment, acknowledgement and attention.




We may be on to something here.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fast Is the Family Business

My grandfather ran track. My father ran track. I ran track. My step-mother ran track. All three of my half-brothers ran track. I am pretty sure my daughter will run track, and maybe my half-sister who is her age will too. I'm sure my son will too.

I guess you could say fast is the family business.

I began running competitively in grade school. I loved the trips to the track with my father. He and my mom split up when I was 2 or 3, but in an odd arrangement my mom, step-dad and I lived next door to my father and his girlfriend (also a runner!) My father would take me out to the dirt track at the local community college and we would run together. One of the greatest gifts my father gave to me was a love of sprinting. I love running fast, it is a source of pure joy for me. Even to this day I cherish the nights when I dream about running fast. My happiest dreams are those when I am out on an empty track, at dusk. It's a little cool, but you hit random warm patches on the track as you finish up your 100's or 200's. It's quiet. All you hear is your labored breathing. You feel supple. Alive. Fast.

At the track we worked out on you could feel the fog begin to roll in even before you could see it. The smell of the ocean would tease your nose as the grey wave made its way to the track. If anyone else was out there they would begin to pack up their gear and head out, not knowing that the most magical time was when the blanket of fog came in. The quality of light and sound would change, the energy would shift. We would run, fine mist leaving tiny droplets on our hair. My father would tell me that was the best time to get a workout in, because of the positive ions in the air. I believed him.

I won ribbons on track and field day in elementary school. (Ironically, I teach PE at the same elementary school, maybe half a mile away from the storied dirt track I mention above.) I ran for the junior high school team. I ran in high school. I ran in college. I quit running. I dropped out of college. I went back to college. I ran again. I went to graduate school and studied how athletes can successfully transition of of competitive athletics and back into "the real world". I coached track. I became a PE teacher. I dream of running fast again. I have grandiose ideas like "How about I write a memoir about being middle-aged and out of shape and coming back to train for the World Masters Track Championships? Doesn't that sound great?" 

Honestly, I wonder if I haven't done myself a disservice by never really severing that connection to track and sprinting and running fast. I've tried. I've talked to my therapist about it. "Isn't it time I get over this? Shouldn't I have let this go by now?" And yet I keep coming back to it. Running. I am always amazed by how good it makes me feel, when I do my version of sprinting and don't pull a muscle. I feel good. Carefree. Fast.

It's the family business.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Let's Start with Day 10

Day 10: What do you appreciate most about yourself? 

  1. My acceptance - I accept others, very little shocks me - you can tell me anything and I won't judge you.
  2. My creativity - writing, thinking, working things out. It may not always work, but it will be creative! 
  3. My sense of humor and my ability to laugh at most foibles - sometimes too soon. 
  4. My generosity - I did give a kidney to my sister. 
  5. My optimism - even when things are bleak I end up optimistic.
  6. My curiosity - I am always learning, researching, reading, wondering, thinking.
  7. My ability to appreciate the moment - the clouds, the color of the sky, the hummingbird sitting on the branch, the smell of the sea even miles inland, the little things that often escape us. 
  8. My love for - and appreciation and cultivation of - family that is like friends and friends that are like family. 
  9. My resilience.
  10. My openness. 
Ok, that's 10! Phew! Let's try for 5 more: 

   11. My persistence (sometimes....LOL!) 
   12. My naivete - it allows me to email famous authors and sometimes get replies! 
   13. My willingness to try new things. 
   15., ok, well, that was ambitious!    

I'll stop with Lucky 13. 


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Greetings from the State of Self-Loathing

I'm ashamed to admit this.

Logically, intellectually, I know I am OK as I am. I have written about and celebrated my body parts before. I am aware of the damage done to young girls (and boys) when there is an unhealthy focus on outward appearance. I know all of this and more. And yet, here I am, a middle-aged woman, a PE teacher, the mother of a teen girl, a theoretical ROLE MODEL with irrational body image issues.

I'm too old for this shit. I am 46 years old and I don't have time to waste on mid-life body image issues. I know this. And yet, I feel trapped by them. I can not believe how I talk to myself, the things I say when I see myself bending over in front of the mirror, the way I compare my current self to my past self. I focus on the physical, rather than who I am as a person, how I contribute to the lives of those around me - you know, the stuff that really matters. And so, somewhat reluctantly, I am going to try to deal with this issue. I say reluctantly because it's one of those things that I would rather just wish away. Or get over. As in, "Jesus, Jessica, just get over yourself. This is stupid and not worth your energy." Which is basically how I feel about it. But honestly, that doesn't work. It's just getting worse. I feel ashamed to admit to myself, my sweetie, my friends, how obsessed I am with this issue.

A side effect of this is me wondering what is behind this clearly dysfunctional thinking? Why am I going through this now? What is my deal? While I really, really, really want to just get my head on straight and accept myself as I am, I feel like I have some work to do to be able to get there. I may be over-thinking this. It's happened before. [understatement] Part of what makes me think I have to do some work is because I bought this book, Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance. I always do better when I have some homework to not do and then feel bad about - KIDDING! [lie]

In any event, I started last week, well after the first of the year (the most logical starting point) and I have been working through it a couple of pages a day in an effort to catch up. [see, clearly I have many issues to work on] The telling thing - the surprising thing - is that I have encountered great internal resistance to some of the writing exercises, the daily exercises, that I am supposed to complete. Simple ones like "what is your vision for yourself? what do you wish or want for yourself?'

The one that made me stop - literally,  as in, I put the book down and was done with it - was "what do you appreciate most about yourself?" I couldn't answer it. I haven't answered it. I haven't picked the book up since.

In my world, when one doth resist so strongly there is clearly something deeper there. THAT is the tender spot that needs to be investigated. It's like when you read a poem and all of a sudden you start to tear up or get weepy, completely unexpectedly. This has happened to me on many occasions and most often it has meant that there was an opportunity to really dig deep and get at something that needed to be gotten to. Something that needed to see the light of day - either to grow, or to be acknowledged, or to be set free.

That's why I am writing about this. Sharing what is for me a shameful state of being - this state of self-loathing. I need to bring it to light, out from that dark, hidden, smelly place and air it out! Let's see what needs to be set free, what needs to be addressed to and what needs to be carefully tended to.