Tag-Archive for » adventure «

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 | Author:

A quick story: I was out disk golfing (courtesy of my Jo’s 26 before 26 list I’m now a regular disk golfer). We came up to a pin and there was something in the pin.

“What is that?” I asked my friend Brian who was closer to it.

“It’s a crabapple.”

As I came closer I inspected it. “Ohh. That’s what a crabapple looks like. I’ve never seen one before.”

“You’ve never tasted one?” he asked seeming incredulous.

“No,” I said, surprised. “They’re edible? What do they taste like?”

“I don’t know… They’re pretty good.”

I retrieved my disk and we walked toward the next hole in silence for a minute until he looked at me with a smirk on his face. “They’re not edible, just so you know. Don’t go eat one.”

“What!? It’s good you told me!”

“I know. I realized, you’d bake a crabapple pie one day and I’d be like, “why on earth would you do that?” and you’d say, “I don’t know. I didn’t know what they tasted like so I put it on my Jo’s 26 before 26 list. I’m trying to get the most out of life.” “

“Yeah. I would do that,” I conceded, content.

I may be somewhat gullible. But at least I do try to get the most out of life. Hopefully I won’t die eating crabapple pie. But if I do, it’d be alright. There are worse ways to go.

And with that, I give you this years new goals:

Jo’s 27 before 27 List:

  1. Play a disk golf game w/ 4 holes at par
  2. Buy a house
  3. Walk a marathon distance
  4. Be able to do 3 pull ups
  5. Make 30 pitches for articles to be published
  6. Smoke a cigar
  7. Leave the country again (so far age 24 is the only age since I was 17 during which I haven’t left the country.)
  8. Go to a new state
  9. Go to a professional football game
  10. Learn to play tennis
  11. Run through or picnic in a field of sunflowers
  12. Do Lumosity for 30 days
  13. Take a pottery class
  14. Ride a camel or elephant
  15. Watch all of Seinfeld
  16. Finish watching Lost
  17. Watch the Matrix Trilogy
  18. Read another Steinbeck book
  19. Read Harry Potter Book 1
  20. Read 3 memoirs
  21. Read Catch 22
  22. Go on a backpacking trip
  23. Do “morning minutes” every day for 21 days (where you write for 10 minutes straight first thing upon waking)
  24. Try fruitcake
  25. Complete level 1 of Rosetta Stone for Italian
  26. Try Gin
  27. Learn to play poker

If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 02nd, 2014 | Author:


About six years ago now, I left my college, and then left my hometown to study abroad at a small school in Switzerland.  And I mean small. I thought that I had read or been told that it was a school of about 500 people. “That’s pretty dang small,” I had thought.  The two people I knew of who had studied or worked there both raved about how amazing of a place it was.

That, plus it’s physical address and the fact that it was small was all I knew of the school when I decided that I would study there the next semester.

It wasn’t until two days before I left for the semester abroad that people were asking me more about the school and I realized I really didn’t know anything. So I ended up googling it, and looking at it on google maps and seeing that it was right across the street from the Rhine River — awesome — and across some fields from the dense German forest — that would be fun — and then I saw, it’s in a tiny village, literally one street runs through the town. One street. Small freak out moment.

Then I was reading some more on the school website. And somewhere it mentioned it’s school body of “approximately 50 students.”

If you’re not great at math, let me do it for you — 50 is a lot less than 500. A LOT less. I had already suspended my enrollment in my regular university. I had already paid for the semester abroad and had already bought plane tickets. And seemingly didn’t have any other option but to go.  But when I learned that there were only 50 people really did make me panic.

“What if there are no cool people in the 50? What if I won’t make any friends? What if I’m miserable?” I had asked a friend of mine rhetorically, panicking. I often agree to do things that I don’t know a lot about. I suppose it’s the adventurer in me and my keen sense that I will be able to adapt no matter what.

But when I learned how few students there were, and realized how extremely little I knew about the whole living-4-months-in-a-foreign-country thing, I did experience some anxiety.

When I arrived, I found there were actually only 25 students, and they were varied, and interesting, and difficult, and wonderful people to study and live and be with. Two buildings held our entire lives. We lived in that one-street village, Buesingen, and we were each other’s peers, and study partners, and roommates, and dinner guests, and movie-watchers, and walk-takers, and river-swimmers. We were all from elsewhere, but all we had there was one another.

It only took 3 days for me to feel like I was at home. Something I had never felt anywhere besides in my hometown where I had been born and raised. It took 3 days for me to decide that one semester wouldn’t be enough. And quickly I found a way to work for the school to support my dream for one semester to become a year.

But still, one year is not a lot. That was one of the unique features of the school in Buesingen — every semester held some new faces and lost some old ones. Even in a school body of 25 students, there was turnover.

I asked one of the students there at the very beginning how she handled that turnover. “You are so sweet and welcoming. How do you do this? Becoming friends with new people every semester?”

“Well,” she said matter of factly, “you have to make a decision every semester. Don’t let new people in, or choose to have your heart ripped out every semester. I choose the latter.”

I am so glad that I asked her that. Because while she, and the others who embraced me so well there taught me so much about how to connect, they also taught me so much about goodbyes. And see you laters. And see you soons. They taught me that it’s an art form and a discipline to open your heart even knowing that the hurt of separation will come shortly. And they taught me that it was worth it. They were practicing vulnerability before Brene Brown made it cool, and they were doing it without the label. But what’s true is that because they were welcoming and open, and because I was the same, we forged friendships that still have lasted over the span of continents and oceans and years.

I recently was able to return to Europe and see, not all, but many of my good friends from my time there. It was so good to be with them again after 5 years since our goodbyes. I know that we are still friends because we decided the hurt of goodbyes with close friends was a worthy price to pay for good friendship.

As I said goodbye to them this time, my throat hurt again. And as I moved away from Rocklin earlier this week, I said more goodbyes. And as I camped with people from home this weekend, I said more goodbyes to them as I am moving to another state within the week.

And yet somehow, the goodbyes are still worth it.

I used to think this was a curse that I kept feeling led to live a life of comings and goings. I felt jealous of those who never had to say goodbyes.

But, I have such a different perspective now. I agree with the ever-wise Winnie the Pooh.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I’m about to embark on another adventure that I know nothing about. I know that in the comings and goings, I will have to decide to keep closed, or to open myself and have my heart ripped out. I choose the latter. And I’m confident that it’s worth it.

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

Tuesday, July 08th, 2014 | Author:

A few weeks ago I wrote my own eulogy. It’s a writing exercise I’d heard of many times, but one I had never done. But, I’ve thought about my own death since I was a young kid. As someone who always assumed I’d die young (a belief I’m just recently beginning to challenge internally), I’d thought about this type of thing many times before.

The difference is that I wrote this eulogy as a sort of “weekly review” of my life in the most grave sense. And then two days later I was in a doctor’s office having them tell me, “Well, with you being as young as you are, it’d be rare that this is cancer, but we need to be real that that’s a real possibility here. We can’t do anything now. Come back in 3 weeks.”

I’ve been thinking about this eulogy a lot over the past few weeks, and while I understand that I don’t control all of my fate, I went from being scared and overwhelmed, to being determined that this is not where my story ends. That I will not let it end right as I was on the brink of what I talk about  below.

I have since received the good news that I am (almost) in the clear cancer-scare-wise. But it has been a poignant few weeks and I’ve realized that I am not done fighting. I am not done adventuring. I am not done working on things and becoming the best version of me that I can be. I will not lay down and die. If I die right now, I will die fighting if that is an option. But as long as I am breathing, my story is not yet finished.

So, here’s my weird eulogy post. It’s a mix of attempted honest self-reflection and how I hope, maybe, people would remember me should the story stop here.



Joanna O’Hanlon died today. She spent her last day reading blog posts, having fun texting a cute boy, and trying to sort out information from other “productivity” blog posts that she could steal and make her own for a company blog. She was trying to get this done by 3pm, but her mind kept wandering. She went on a run, finished an art project, and went to a cheap movie. It was an ordinary day.

She didn’t know today would be the last day. She would’ve bought and eaten dessert at lunch had she known. She did try V8 finally for the first time before she passed though. She’d continually passed that option in life until today. She actually really liked it, even though it was like drinking cold tomato soup.

The story ending as it is, is a tragedy. She was on the brink of new life. On the brink of hope. On the brink of finding meaning in life again. But she hadn’t quite teetered over the edge. She had weathered the horrible, vomit-inducing, life-wrecking, heart-bulldozing times. She’d wandered in the desert. And when she was almost into the new, beautiful, life-giving season, it just stopped. That’s what makes this so sad. Knowing that joy and hope and adventure were right around the corner.

She had no real romantic involvement ever in her life. She struggled with receiving love. Her independent spirit was her fateful flaw. “You never needed anybody,” her best friend had said to her one time. But in the last year, she’d learned what it was to need people, and to need them without being able to ask for them. And they showed up. Again and again they showed up. She was working on making that translation into her romantic potential. But before she died, she knew she was loved. Not by a man — but by many men and women who gave her their love when she was really broken. When she felt the most unlovable. When she really needed love.

She was reckless in her honesty. She defied the regular rules of propriety about what you could say out loud. She was honest about how she felt, about how life felt, about how death felt. She couldn’t stomach the trite positive-spins that the church and the ignorant put on pain. She would speak out against that with colorful language deep from her gut anytime she heard it. She made many people uncomfortable. And she wasn’t sorry about that. The truth was important to her, because she saw what lack of honesty, what positive-spins and secrets did to people. She’d been hurt by that before. She was finding freedom in the truth, and she wanted to share it with the suffering, even at the cost of making the non-suffering uncomfortable.

She dug into her pain. She let it fill her. She let it burn away the excess in her. And she sought healing. She so badly wanted to be healed. But when God told her he wanted to use her while she was still broken, she cried, and said OK.

Jo loved God. He was her only constant in life. She looked like a wanderer to many. She was, I suppose. Her heart was not at home. It had known pain. It had loved this world. But the only real roots she had were in her God. He had held her, traveled with her. She loved God because he was good in a world that so often felt bad. She loved him because He was there for her when her pain and shame were too much for others. He was there when she wandered. He was there in the wails in the middle of the night. She loved God in the most selfish way possible — she loved Him because she needed him and trusted him. And because she knew He loved her.

Jo loved life. She loved to laugh at funny things. She laughed and squealed with joy when she did child-like things like go to the carnival or swim in the snowy river. Joy might’ve looked like it came naturally to Jo, but really, it was a choice. A choice to not let her sorrow hold her. She would seek joy out. It was a priority in her life. Fun was a priority in her life. She believed she was on an adventure. She chose to believe that.

She really liked high places. She was a climber. Always had been. She could still be seen sometimes on a run, coming across a play ground in the neighborhood, and swinging unabashedly on one of the swings — swinging higher and higher until it felt like her adult-weight would make the whole thing topple.

She loved people. Especially broken people. Especially people who had shown her love. She thought nothing of giving time, money, opportunity, or energy to make these people a priority in their times of need. She needed to work on making them a priority when they weren’t in need, too, though.

And she loved stories. Her curiosity was a bit much for most people, so she was learning how to curb it for the sake of others. But she always, always wanted to know more. She wanted to learn about people and places and things.

About what makes the pressure in a fire hydrant so great that the water literally SHOOTS out of it, while the water in nearby houses simply drizzles out regularly. And which Roman emperor built the coliseum, and which one finished it. And what’s the difference in technique/approach of a barber verses a hair stylist. And how to put in a pool. And how Lewis and Clark crossed the Columbia river. And how did they know they would even find an end to the continent? And what seasonings are in V8? And how did you get to be the person you are today?

Her curiosity for knowledge, and her love of stories defined her. There were six words that always caught her interest: “Let me tell you a story…”

She was working on writing her own story, too. It is incomplete. But so is life, I suppose.

She is survived by some of her immediate family, not all of them: her mother, her father, her brother. She is survived by extended family and her friends — too many good ones to mention them all. But they live all over the country, all over the world. She is survived by her town: Oroville – the land of the hopeless and broken and stuck. She really loved that town. We don’t know why, but she did.

We don’t know what we should do with her body. She used to say to just throw it in the sea because it was the cheapest option. But we’re not sure it’s the cheapest option. And we’re not sure if that’s what she wanted anymore. She had definite desires — but they changed… it was hard to keep track sometimes.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 | Author:

Want to know my secret?

I plan to be adventurous and spontaneous.

In fact, my whole life is in preparation to be able to make those spontaneous, adventurous moments possible.

I stay in shape so that I can do fun active things at a moments (or days or weeks) notice.

I save my money into an nondescript “non-designated adventure fund”. (I also have many designated saved funds for specific big, longer-planner trips/activities.) This way I can make the decision to use these for-whatever-i-want adventure funds when opportunities arise (or when I create them).

I save my vacation time and my sick days and I plan ahead the most lucrative ways to use my time off (and my general free time). So when someone becomes my friend and is like, “Hey, let’s go to Europe next month,” I can be like, “yeah, I’ve got vacation days for that.”

I also try not to procrastinate, as I know that this leads to lack of accessibility for adventure. When I’ve put something off too long, and then the chance for adventure knocks, I’m left having to decide to be responsible and do you work, or say yes to the adventure. But if I do my work ahead of time, I can do both. In fact, when I do my work ahead of time, then I have the room in my schedule to be able to look around and ask “What fun thing could I do right now?”

The saddest part about procrastination is that I am most guilty of doing meaningless things with my time while I wait for the deadline to approach.  In college I made a mental shift. I knew I was going to procrastinate either way (I hadn’t overcome this tendency AT ALL yet), so I decided that instead of pretending that I was going to do my homework, I would just decide that I wasn’t going to start it until a later time.  That freed me up to really enjoy and use my time wisely until then. However, I would still argue that it gives you more freedom if you do your work earlier rather than later.

I know who might want to go with me on spontaneous things. It’s always valuable to invite a buddy along, even if they don’t end up being able to come.

And lastly, I say no to a lot of other things so that I have the time, the physicality, the funds, the freedom to say yes to the really great opportunities that come my way (even though sometimes that means saying no to other great opportunities to get there). I always remember that saying yes to something means saying no to something else.

So I practice that when planning to be spontaneous and have adventures.  And then when it happens, it all feels like it falls together so smoothly, it’s almost easy to forget that my life is structured in a way that the hard work is done up front so that the adventure can just be that — adventurous and fun.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

Thursday, May 01st, 2014 | Author:

If you would like to have an adventure, this is for you.

10 steps for Adventure(ing like a responsible adult) :

1. Decide to have an adventure.

2. Invite someone to join you — you can adventure by yourself, but it’s better to have an adventure partner lest you need help climbing up a snow embankment, need someone to grab the broken windshield wiper before it flies away, or someone to walk you to the drug store after you accidentally eat peanuts (this is probably only necessary for those allergic to peanuts).

doing so on social media is encouraged. It allows others to jump in too, if that’s your desire. If you         struggle with control, or really want an exclusive adventure, save posting about it until it’s happening, or after it’s over.

3. Go somewhere. You don’t even have to decide ahead of time. It could be adventuring into a new part of your town (or the surrounding land if you want to get naturey), or it could be the other side of the world.

4. Know how much time you have until you HAVE to be back. Then decide along the way where to go in between. Flexibility is key to adventure.

5. Know how much money you have to spend. If you know you have only $10, my advice is to know what priorities you have: if food isn’t one of them, but entrance to a national park is, then eat from the McDonald’s menu so that you can afford the latter. Be a grown up when it comes to money management, even on adventures. And know when it’s worth it to bend the budget for the sake of an experience/memory.

6. Talk to people. People you know. People you don’t know. Ask people for their suggestions (what’s your favorite drink here? Where do YOU like to get donuts in Portland? What’s your favorite graphic novel, man who is standing in the graphic novel section of Powell’s and looks like he belongs there?)

7. Practice the art of wandering and exploration. This applies in cities and outdoors. Remember what it was like to be a kid, eyes wide with wonder at the world unfolding around you, always excited and curious to know what lay behind the next bend? Practice letting yourself do that again.

8. Take a camera. But don’t spend too much time taking pictures. Make sure you see the beautiful views with your eyes, not just your lens finder.

9. Do some leg work ahead of time if you are going to a place where you know nothing about, but know that there are specific things the place it known for. (Look at possible routes. Look for famous places. ask around for people who have been there. Check your tires before you leave — I would suggest realizing you need a new tire prior to the day before the trip… but that’s still better than realizing you need one when it blows out on the highway. These are hypothetical examples, of course.). But then be willing to let your itinerary go if need be.

10. Enjoy yourself. Even in the mishaps. That’s part of the adventure. And make sure you laugh a lot along the way.

If you are super adventurous and flexible, have no schedule commitments you have to be back for, and have unending funds, follow steps 1, 3, & 10.

That’s how to have an awesome adventure. So go have one. And tell me about yours when you go!

Sharing the adventure stories with each other helps to keep our sense of adventure alive, even when we’re doing the important work of everyday life.

If you missed it, you can read my latest travel adventures from my roadtrip to Portland last week (and see photos of some of the awesomeness we found along the way!).

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon


Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 | Author:

” I feel like it’s time for you to come here so we can have an adventure.”

I posted that on my friend Lizz’s facebook wall a couple months ago, completely serious, but not knowing where it would lead. My wanderlust was just acting up, and I missed Lizz. So I said so.

Side note: To be transparent, I try to persuade people into adventures much more often than they’re able to happen. Lizz has gotten good about saying no when she needs to. But she’s also getting better at being prepared to say yes!  This makes me happy. End side note.

Quickly, a mutual friend of ours (we met him and his family when we studied abroad at EuNC in Switzerland) chimed in (I love facebook’s option to comment on most anything these days). “You guys should come to Portland!” He suggested. And then he let us know that another married couple that we knew from EuNC who still live there were going to be coming to his church in April to speak.

Lizz texted me quickly about dates, time off work, logistics. and then her tickets were booked.

Last Thursday she flew to Sacramento, and then we left after I got off work the next day and we drove to Portland (9.5 hours, piece of cake). We were off on our adventure!

We actually ended up seeing/reuniting with several people along the way: The Veach’s (whom we stayed with, and got to meet the newest member of their family, beautiful baby Anna). The Glendennings (Martin and Cezi, who were definitely not a romantic item the last time I saw them 5 years ago in Switzerland). Lizz’s second cousin, who we got to enjoy the deliciousness of Salt and Straw ice cream with. Adrienne, a mutual friend from college who has lived on another continent and moved back since we’d last seen her — also who we didn’t know lived in Portland, but she saw our pictures and reached to meet up with us. And we got to see my good friend and brother Nathan in his life in Eugene (and he let us take over his room. His mama raised him right!).

This weekend we did a lot: We drove, stopped for sight-seeing, hiked around the mountains and waterfalls, ate at the food carts, experienced the wonderment of Salt and Straw ice cream, ate too many donuts at blue star donuts, drank a nauseating amount of chocolate at Cacao — which we were happy to do — spent hours browsing Powell’s bookstore and drinking coffee while reading, got to visit our friends’ church, got to see the lookout point of Eugene, and got to gaze at the beauty of Crater Lake (after struggling to climb up the snowing embankment to get to the view).

This weekend we shared a lot of stories: We got to spend hours sharing painful stories about our lives since we’d last seen each other. We got to hear giddy stories of how our friends got together as a couple. We got to hear the stories of churches planted, lives moved, seasons lived. We got to share in funny stories about pregnancy. And about life after college. We got to be together: around the table, over coffee, over breakfast, on the floor of the living room, in the seats of cars, sitting in plaza squares, and in tiny spaces with delicious food and a colorful crowd of people pressing in all around us.

This weekend we got to adventure: The adventure of driving through the snow right after Lizz talked about how she can’t drive in the snow.  And then the adventure of the windshield wiper breaking off mid-downpour on the highway. (We pulled over and got it to re-attach, thankfully!) The beauty of the river gorge and the forested paths. The beauty of the aisles and aisles of books. The wonder of a whole block of carts offering all different foods. The snowy road up to a gorgeous lake when our GPS stopped working soon after Lizz said “I can’t even imagine road tripping with just a paper map, without GPS. I mean, I probably could do it, but I never have.” The adventure of stopping at the view point of Mount Shasta with no one around except a motorcycle. “Where do you think the motorcycle owner is?” asked Lizz. “Peeing.. or poopin,” I said quietly. “Ha! Peeing or pooping,” she repeated laughing. Then he emerged from the bushes and looked down as he walked to his bike and left without looking at the mountain.

The beauty of our weekend was that it felt like we did a lot, and had a lot of time with the people we were with, and it never felt rushed. And the reason why, is because that’s how you have an adventure. You go out of your norm. You decide it’s going to be an adventure.  And then whatever happens next, is one.

If you would like to have an adventure, check back for my post tomorrow:

10 Steps to Adventure(ing like a responsible adult)













Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon


Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | Author:

I’ve always been independent, as far as I can remember.

When I was young I would say I was a lot like a cat.  I loved to be loved. But I loved to go out and hunt and do my own thing. I had the domesticated, relational side of me, and the side that didn’t need anyone else to affirm or participate in something that I was interested in — I’d do it regardless.  And I was in a family that facilitated this. I was well connected and loved in our family, so I felt safe to go wander out and explore the world alone. I was independent, like a little lioness on the plains, returning to my pack at the end of each day.

And I can clearly see now that even when I was a young kid I had a strong reaction against manipulation (my definition: trying to get someone to do something without being straightforward; coercion; trying to force a desired outcome through unclear, threatening, or illogical means).


photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

I recall one of my childhood friends and I having the same situation play out several times. Her move to try to get what she wanted was a simple threat. Manipulation 101. “If you don’t do _____, I’m not going to be your friend anymore.”

And there’s this part of me that remembers these instances so clearly it still makes me react inside.  “Fine.” I’d say, resolutely. “Don’t be my friend anymore.” And I’d go outside and play how I wanted. While I don’t think she ever meant her words, I meant mine. As a child I would rather lose a friend than be manipulated by one.

There’s this defiant voice inside me that says, “you will not get what you want out of me that way. You will not. I will not play that game.”

Have you ever seen a cat who just doesn’t want to be held anymore? And the person holding him keeps holding on, trying to pet him?  What happens?  His ears go flat back. His tail starts to wag. His claws come out, and he tries to get free. That’s how I feel sometimes — like people get past the point where this is enjoyable for both of us — and then it’s one sided — the person petting the cat continues to pet him because the PERSON wants to love (or control) the cat, not because the cat wants love. So the cat, independent creature that it is, claws their way out of the situation.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that the term for giving into demands like that for fear of actually losing that friendship is called codependency.

I’ve begun to see, though, that this defiant streak in me — the anti-co-dependent me — is driven by something cat-like, and it’s perhaps equally as unhealthy as codependency.


I think it’s semi-normal to not want to spend endless time with the same person without a break. I think breaks are good. They help us keep our individuality and our individual lives. They are healthy to protect ourselves from becoming so enmeshed in a relationship that you don’t even know what you as an individual enjoy or dislike anymore.

But for me, I get relational claustrophobia. I feel confined. Like there’s not enough air. Not enough room. Not enough availability for me to do what I want. Like I’m being tied down (not in the domestic way, but in the Aslan on the altar way).

This last month I’ve started to see that it’s not my independence that drives this. It’s my fear that people won’t let me be independent anymore. It’s not that these things are actually happening, but I have a fear of being caught. Stifled. Tied down. Have my wings clipped. And as I’ve started to think about it, I’ve begun to be honest with myself: This is my greatest fear. And it always has been.

You try to manipulate me, I’m gone.  You get clingy, I’m out of there. You want to spend time with me and do all the things I do, and I feel like I’m going to lose myself. You love me too much, and I worry it’s a trap.

Because we’re all human, I’ve seen people who I know authentically love me, and then I start to see their needs come out and color their “love” — I start to see that their motives are not love, they are selfish. Which should be a sign to me that they need more from me.  But instead, an alarm goes off in my head that says, “This isn’t love. Run.” I’m the cat in the lap being held for too long and I start doing whatever it takes to get down. It’s a fear reaction at its core.

I respond really well to direct communication, because that’s the only way that this alarm in my head doesn’t go off. But in recent years, I’ve known smart people who I felt like I was communicating blatantly with, and now that I’m out of those situations, I see that I was being blatantly manipulated.  I was duped and hurt irreparably, and it happened right in front of my eyes. So now my walls around my heart are taller and thicker, and my anti-manipulation instinct is even stronger.

And here I am, willing to admit it for the first time in my life (and willing to sadly admit that I was not always this way): I’m scared of commitment. To Jobs. To apartment leases. To roommates. To plans. To new relationships. To the Church.

Because despite my strong instincts that have protected me from being “caught” for most of my life… it happened. I was duped. I was hurt. And I just don’t know if I can live through that again.

And because of that, I’m like a skittish cat. The one that used to be a friendly pet. But then was hurt. The one who got abused, or scared, or something,  and that changed everything for now.

I can feel people trying to woo me out. I see them putting the food out for me. I hear them calling for me to come out of the bushes.  And while they may just want to be nice and provide for me and love on me, I’m still the cat in the bushes who waits until no one’s around, then I’ll dart out and eat the food and dart back before anyone can catch me. They probably would just pet me. But I’m terrified of being caught.

I want to trust people. But I want them to be trust-worthy. And I’m in the chasm in the middle of those two right now.

In my efforts toward bravery, I keep leaving the metaphoric bushes. And I stay out of them a little longer each time. But at the end of the day, I’m still distrusting. I still cut conversations off before they’re finished. I still leave early. I still RSVP tentatively. I still don’t like letting people know my schedule or my plans.

And I don’t have a bow to tie around this story.  This is me just being honest and ugly and wrestling with my crap out loud, because my story is one of the few ways that I’m still willing to risk vulnerability over and over again.  Because I believe there is the potential for healing in the act of sharing stories — healing for me, and maybe for others too.

If you’re one of the people who has reached out to me in this season of life, I am so, so grateful.  I apologize for my sometimes skittish nature. And I apologize if I’ve hurt you when I’ve left situations and relationships too soon when you were really just trying to love me. Really.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

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