Tattoo Chronicles #1 – Survivor

My first tattoo. Got it in 2008, five years after surviving cancer.

I drew this design up myself, and the tattoo artist commented it was obvious I wasn’t a tattoo artist – too many fiddly little scrolls.survivor tattoo

I wanted this tattoo more than anything. I needed a permanent reminder to never take my body for granted, and always listen to it when it speaks to me. The non-hodgkins lymphoma was stage 3B by the time it was found, undiagnosed for seven months despite my repeatedly visiting a doctor asking for tests. I knew I was sick. He told me I was just tired and working too hard. I walked into my local hospital emergency department on July 17th 2003 and told them if I was going to die, I wanted to do it in their waiting room, not in my kitchen in front of my kids. They found the saucer sized tumour in my chest within an hour of my arrival. Rushed to a bigger hospital in an ambulance, then airlifted two days later to Sydney. Three months of chemotherapy and two of radiotherapy. I learned a lot about myself in that time.

First thing I learned is my body knows what sometimes my mind and will refuses to admit. I thought I was living a good life, but it was a cacophony of compromises. My body said, fine, go there if you like, but I’m not coming with you.

It took time for me to relearn my body’s signals and to rebuild the trust between it and me. Now, I ask it first before I do anything where it will be required to bear the weight of the consequences. Sometimes it says, hell yes! Sometimes it says, are you kidding? Sometimes my body says, look at your arm, girlfriend. And when I do, I’m sometimes reminded I am not made of iron and stone. I can break. But sometimes looking at my survivor tattoo reminds me I can do very hard things. It reminds me not to expect so little of my body.

And sometimes, my tattoo reminds me becoming a survivor requires one almost die, and then come back from that…..but there be a day when I will not come back. Is this that day? No. This is not that day. Today, I live. Every day, until that day. I live.

Selah, my friends.
Jo xxx

How To Love Your Darkness.

There is a time and season for negativity. I absolutely believe this. There’s a place for seeing things cynically and refusing to be cheered with platitudes and cliches. If you’re experiencing a period where your perspective is decidedly blunt and pessimistic, and you can’t see any good reason to change it, good for you. And I mean that.

Go with it. I often do. I especially found this empowering when I was recovering through cancer and treatment. Fuck all that positive thinking. Fuck all those sunshiney exhortations to just think positive. I didn’t want to be happy and just think positive. I needed to get down with my black thoughts and face off with it all. I didn’t want to make nice for others, or talk myself out of my fears. I needed to go with them down the rabbit hole and see where and what they led to.

It did me good. I’ve seen my dark side and my rock bottom. I hit it arse first and sat there with it, swearing and being a cynical shit and refusing to be cheered up or pulled out of it. I lived in a dark place for a long time, made friends with death and dying, became acquainted with worst possible case scenarios like you might a peculiar new neighbor, and learned they weren’t that scary or peculiar after all. I learned this about my worst case scenarios – sometimes they happen, and when they do, I can do them. I can go there. I am strong. I am smart. I’m also allowed to be scared, cry and fall apart. But I know what to do when they happen. Because I went there. Because I refused to talk myself happy or only think positive.

Truth is, we don’t always get the sunny outcome we are praying for. Positive thoughts have their time and place. But so does your melancholy. Just feel it all. Truly, that’s my advice to my friends who are going through cancer, or loving an addict, or being an addict, or breaking up a relationship, or watching someone slip away. Feel it all. Don’t be afraid. Love all the parts of you, even your cranky, negative, cynical side. It’s still you. However, be careful not to use your negativity to hurt others. Don’t become a bully, or a jerk, to your friends and community. Some won’t cope with your negativity, but lots of them will love it easily. Let them do it. Let them help you love the dark places in you. Love them into the light.

May you be loved into the light today, sweet friend.

Stop trying to fix people.

Stop trying to fix people.11220895_970766532969437_8425605342194546740_n

It’s enough for a great many of us to have gotten to the end of another day without hurting ourselves.

Enough.

When you’re tempted to suggest yet another self-improvement to your hurting friend, try celebrating the fact they’re still here and fighting their way through the day to be whole instead.

Heading home for a hundred years.

It’s been six months since we quit our lease, put our stuff in storage and hit the road in search of “the Place”.

Six months of facing every single fear, known and unknown, from my fear Ben will relapse into addiction and depression, to my fear I’ll get sick again, or we will run out of money. Or, worse even than that, that we are completely insane and this is crazy, and there is no Place, not really, and there will be no end to this searching.

We know fear is a shocking liar.

We’ve had glimmers of hope, with no guarantees. We’ve had co-dreamers and co-creators come on board with us, conspiring in their hearts and spirits with us to find our way to the Place that waits now for us, somewhere.

I lay awake at night and think of it, out there, it’s gardens and rooftops bathed in the same moonlight as the one I’m laying under, it’s floors resting in darkness waiting for our feet to cross them, it’s table waiting for the many meals we will share with others to be placed on them, the land waiting to be blessed and healed, so we can bring the ones together who need blessing and healing and help them grow and recover from the world, and it’s endless bruising and brokenness.

And I close my eyes and hear the silence of the Place, feel it’s peace tingling my skin in chilled air and it’s restfulness unravelling my spine and stretching me out to my full length. I feel the stars wheeling overhead. I feel the Place, and me in it, part of it. It is part of me, and I believe it will know me when it sees me and come running to meet me, laughing and singing, “Here you are! I’ve been waiting! You’re home!”10153961_680470715332355_220179533_n

And we will be home. And we’ll bring them in, the ones who are also looking for the Place, and we will give them ground for their feet and sky for their crowns, and we will sit them at the head of the table and serve them and make them our brothers and sisters. And we will all be broken and put back together again, in Him.

It doesn’t always sound like this in my head, you know. Mostly it’s the fear, the doubt and the worry. But half a year of that isn’t that long. Ben and I are just shy of a hundred years of journeying between us to get us this far. I have a feeling we are much closer than we think.

Love, Jo xxx

The Place.

Every day, and every night, I dream of this place.

I am the place and the place is me.

A place where we can all be together.

I am the place and the place is me.

A place with a table, around which we eat bread. Broken and shared, like our lives, in Him.

I am the place and the place is me.

I dream of helping others to lay down burdens and sorrows, of raising the dead, lifting holy hands, surrendering all that holds us to the earth, or binds us to our shame.

I am the place and the place is me.

I imagine a place where we speak “namaste” – the spirit in me sees the spirit in you – and we see, and are seen.

I am the place and the place is me.

I see a garden, an orchard, chickens and cows. Vegetables for our bodies. Fruit for our smiles. Eggs for new life. Milk for the children. Life, everywhere, eaten and celebrated and worked for and enjoyed. A place where things grow.

I am the place and the place is me.

I dream of laying down to sleep in peace, under the clear sky and the stars, with no fears to keep me from dreaming.

I am the place and the place is me.

I dream of growing old with these people, with the love returning to me again and again, with loving hands holding me as I lay down for the last time, in this place, my place our place.

I am the place and the place is me.

I seek you, my place. I’m becoming you, and you’re becoming me.

Love, Jo xxx

New House Plans

If there were a place where you didn’t have to hide your past, where everything you’d been through was a qualification and not a liability, would you move there?

If there were a place where everyone talked openly about their fragility, doubt and pain, where nobody pretended to have their shit together and there was no way to graduate to the top by being the most fixed up, the most perfect or the most clever at hiding all your flaws, would you want to live there?

If there were a place where your shame was treated like a wound which needs healing, instead of a compulsory uniform, would you be interested in being part of it?

If there were a place where it was assumed grace was Gods constant posture, towards you and everyone else, would you seek it out?

If there were a place where you didn’t have to be the strong one, where you didn’t have to hold it all together, where the buck didn’t stop with you, where it wasn’t all on your shoulders, and you could just let it all fall down, and somebody would catch you, so you could finally stop being the strong one and just let it all go, would you apply to go there?

If there were a place where someone had your kids in their sights, so you didn’t feel like you were the only one who didn’t see them as typical kids from a broken home, or a project to be taken on, or as coming from a family we don’t mix with, or didn’t see them at all, would you try and make it even if just for a while?

If there were a place like this, would it seem like somewhere you’d like to be?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were such a place? I think about our family after I was recovering from cancer, and I think, we could’ve found answers there. I think about me and my kids when Ben went away to rehab and nobody knew what to do with us, and I think, I know I’d have been all right there.

And I know it would be a safe, healing place for so many others.

If only we believed it were actually possible to create places like this on the earth, and the idea of profits and cost and viability and who would get to be the boss and who would pay the bills and what makes you think you’re qualified to do something like that came second, and people came first.

Not fixed up people. Broken people. First.

On earth, as it is in heaven.

We are dreaming of such a place. Because we are the most broken of all.

Love, Jo xxx