Tag-Archive for » Life «

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 | Author:

Well, as someone who loves to be celebrated (because hey, I’m a youngest and maybe slightly egotistical) I always keep track of my half birthday, and that was earlier this month. Which means it’s time for a 6 month update on my goals list for the year! I have a bit further to go…

  1. Play a disk golf game w/ 4 holes at par
    • When I made this goal, my friend that I played with a lot then told me I needed to up the ante and make a harder goal. I didn’t believe him, but it only took a month after my birthday that I accomplished this goal. I updated the goal to playing a whole round of disc golf at bogie par (4 strokes instead of 3), and accomplished that in October. So I’m now working on the goal of a whole game at par. That goal is taking a while still.
  2. Buy a house
    • This is one of those things that you put on a list and don’t expect to necessarily complete it. But it turns out, this goal is like any other goal — I just had to break it in to parts and steps, and then do those one by one until it was done. It’s actually one of the bigger accomplishments I’ve made, but one of the easier ones accomplished. I was at the right point in life and in the right place in the world.
  3. Walk a marathon distance
    • (I have plans to do this next week. Pray for the least amount of blisters possible.)
  4. Be able to do 3 pull ups
    • (I joined a gym. Still embarrassingly weak. But working on it regularly.)
  5. Make 30 pitches for articles to be published
    • (I’ve been slacking on this. I’ve done maybe 5 or 6. Need to get serious soon here on this.)
  6. Smoke a cigar
  7. Leave the country again
  8. Go to a new state
  9. Go to a professional football game
    • (I missed the boat on this and won’t be able to accomplish it as even the pre-season doesn’t start until the week after my birthday. BUT I’m making it a point to go soon after.)
  10. Learn to play tennis
  11. Run through or picnic in a field of sunflowers
  12. Do Lumosity for 30 days
    • (I’ve started this goal numerous times and always miss a day within the first week or two. Need to find a better system to keep me consistent and accountable.)
  13. Take a pottery class
  14. Ride a camel or elephant
  15. Watch all of Seinfeld
    • Currently on season 5
  16. Finish watching Lost
  17. Watch the Matrix Trilogy
  18. Read another Steinbeck book
  19. Read Harry Potter Book 1
    • Started it. Put it down during a busy season. Need to pick it up again.
  20. Read 3 memoirs
    • I have read “Home is Burning” by Dan Marshall and it was irreverent, crass, hilarious, and honest about grief and death and hard life.  I laughed hard. I cried softly. I loved it. I’m currently reading my 2nd — “The Glass Castle”
  21. Read Catch 22
    • Didn’t care for it. Didn’t need to read it. But I would’ve continued to want to read it until I figured that out for myself. Now I know.
  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
    • I thought I’d missed the boat on this one also, but as I was at a party after christmas, they had some! It wasn’t bad. I’ve always thought I might like fruitcake. I have the palate of a 90-year-old woman.
  25. Complete level 1 of Rosetta Stone for Italian
    • In process
  26. Try Gin
  27. Learn to play poker
    • Technically I learned to play. But I haven’t really played a full game. I think this still needs to happen.

Also, it’s been exciting to me that since I’ve started these lists, I’ve seen some of my friends get inspired to make their own lists which I think is incredible!! It’s so fun to see people define and work on their own goals. If you have any lists like this or just any goals that you’re working on, I’d love to hear about 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        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 | Author:

I’d just told my uncle that I wanted to move.

I was living in an area that I’d only moved to for two reasons.

The first was that I wanted to move out of my hometown. I’d spent enough time there as an adult, and enough time there after some major life changes to feel ready to leave without feeling like I was running away. I felt released from the place that I had once loved, and I was looking for a new place to begin the long rebuilding process.

The second reason I’d moved to this small suburban city was that I was offered a job there, one which I happily took.

“I know you might know this, but I want to iterate that you haven’t really been here that long,” my uncle began. He has a good way with words, and it’s always been clear to me that he cares for my best interest.

“You know, we moved around a lot when the kids were younger, and what we found was that it takes at least a year to really assimilate into a new town. And you’ve only been here a little longer than that.”

He was right. I knew that I could probably assimilate more there if I stayed longer. But that’s not what I wanted.

“I know,” I said, “It’s just that I don’t know that this is the place that I want to settle into.”

“OK,” he said, relenting, “that’s fair.”

What I’d started to see in the people around me there — at work, at my apartment complex, and at the church I was attending — was that a lot of people end up somewhere forever just because they never had any instigating event that made them move. (And not because they had lack of resources or potential opportunity.) As I started to be aware of it, I realized that for a lot, if not most people, the same was true for many of their relationships, their careers, their family culture, and ultimately their whole life.

And I saw that I was on that path. It would be easy to let that happen in my life as well. My uncle was probably right — the longer I stayed there, the more involved and connected I would’ve become. The more complacent I would’ve been with my life. And truly, I think for many people, that’s how their lives play out and they are really content with it. Which is great.

But I knew, for my own happiness, I needed more than that.  And I had the means and the will to make it happen.

I didn’t want to end up in Rocklin, California 30 years from now simply because I never happened to move. If I was to stay there, I wanted it to be because I wanted to be there. But that was the thing — I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t not want to be there either. Which is why I stayed as long as I did. I was traveling. Wandering. Looking for somewhere else I wanted to be. Lingering while figuring out that this was not where I wanted my forever home to be.

And when I was still not sure of where I wanted to live, I had finally come to know that that suburban city was not it. Which meant, for me, that while it would be comfortable and easy to stay, it was time to do the hard work and the leap of faith of moving forward, elsewhere.

I’m not sure why place has always been such a big deal to me, but I’ve always felt very strongly about where I decide to live. I feel like I could live anywhere for a time. But to make any sort of commitment to living somewhere — I have to choose it.

If it hadn’t of been for this conviction in me about places, I don’t know that I would’ve moved on when I did. I may never have. It’s easy to stay where you’ve got your life set up. It’s easy to stay where it’s comfortable and safe. Where it’s familiar. Even if it’s not really somewhere you’ve ever really chosen to be — just somewhere you’ve ended up.

Since that conversation, and that decision to move, I’ve made it a commitment in my life to make choices. To choose my own happiness and situations over what’s familiar and safe. To choose contentment over complacency.

I’ve spent a lot of my life envying the people who never move, who marry their high school sweethearts, who have 2.5 children and a dog and a cat, and who stay at the same job their whole lives. Not because that’s what I’ve really wanted, but because it seemed easier. And it seemed like they were happy enough.

A lot of them, I’m sure, are truly happy.

But I didn’t have a high school sweetheart. I’ve moved a lot. I don’t have any kids yet. And I’ve already switched careers once since college. And in all of those start-overs that take so much energy, I think I’ve learned that when in my desires to settle down, I’m no longer willing to settle. I learned that I have the capacity to happen to life. I don’t have to just let life happen to me.

I’m willing to give up what probably would’ve been good enough in exchange for what’s specifically great for me.

End Note: I know y’all are sick of reading about Wichita. But I’m really glad that I moved and found a town that’s great for me. I’m proud to call it home.

Disclaimer: I realize that it is a privilege to be able to choose some things like these about one’s life. The observations mentioned in this post were not of those who truly have no options for change of their place, career, or sometimes even relationships, which I know is a reality for many. The piece is about my own personal convictions about how I have been able to and have chosen to live my life here forward.


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, November 24th, 2015 | Author:

If you told me 12 years ago that my world would change forever in a few months, I either wouldn’t have believed you, or I wouldn’t have been thankful at Thanksgiving. Not really.

I probably would’ve said that I’d be grateful — good, strong church kid that I was. But I wouldn’t have been. I’d have tallied it up with my chronic illness in the category of “things in which I just can’t get a break.” There would’ve been nothing sincere left in the “Thankful for” column as I was already an angsty teen.

I was 14 and I was thankful. Until my sister died. Then I was mad at the world and wore a fake smile.

Through many years, though, we rebuilt a “new normal.” I found people inside my family and out that felt like home. We created a good life together. A great life together.

In time, I was thankful again. So thankful. Abundantly thankful. My line was, “There’s not anywhere else in the world I’d rather me, nor anything else I’d rather be doing, than being here now, doing what I do.” And I meant it. I meant it down all the way through the drain pipes of my soul.

Three years ago you could not have wrung more thankfulness from my heart on Thanksgiving than I freely gave.

I had pre-thanksgiving thanksgiving (my brother’s term — friendsgiving to the rest of the world) the week before with some of my dearest, life-long friends. On the day of, I woke up, played football with many people that I loved and did life with everyday, while others in that same vein watched us play, then I spent the mealtime with my family. We watched all of the Thanksgiving episodes of friends and went to a movie — new traditions since Julie died. I remember thinking I could die then and still be happy. I was so thankful for my life. it was beautiful in so many ways.

If you had told me then that 40 days later I’d be alone, broken, with an inability for thankfulness again, I’d have believed you — but I probably would’ve hit you, too. Because I knew life was so beautiful, but so fragile, that I wouldn’t have wanted to know ahead.

But you’d have been right. 40 days later, I’d be holed up in my apartment, alone, broken, not just ungrateful, but stunned altogether. Once the dry heaves and violent sobs subsided, I was a zombie of grief and brokenness for a while. Then, after a few months, like the 14 year old me, I learned how to pretend to smile sometimes.

It would be four months before I smiled again for real. It would be a year and a half before I felt hope again. It would be two years until I felt free again. And it would be this past summer that I felt at home again.

But I do. I feel at home. I drive down the road and like a woman in the first stages of love, I see life in a rose-colored hue. The trees on the side of the road shine. The grass in the Kansan fields seems majestic. The cashier at the grocery store’s friendliness is energizing. The river water soothes my mind as I walk along its same course.

I have retained friends that I was sure I’d lose along the way, but they stayed. They came back. And they say things like “hey, just so you know, even if you f*** up big time and it’s completely your fault somewhere in life, I’m still here. I’m with you.” I have people that are my people that live scattered around the country and around the world and I know that they love me.

I am in love with life, and the people in it, and every day I’m in awe because of something.

I’m in a new town where I still don’t know a lot of people. I create marketing plans and serve sushi for a living, and I spend most nights watching Netflix with my dog, but even still, I’m in love with life again. I feel alive and free and at home again.

And once again, this is the most thankful I have ever been. I am thankful for new normals. For old and new friends. And especially thankful for new homes (*cough* Wichita *cough*).

When it comes down to it, this is what I’ve learned about life — Joy is a choice. You have to choose it. And keep choosing it. And thankfulness comes with it. Or visa versa, not really sure, I haven’t achieved yoda-level yet. I’m still learning.

Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for it all. I’m thankful for you all.


 

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

Wednesday, October 07th, 2015 | Author:
photo credit: Daydream via photopin (license)

photo credit: Daydream via photopin (license)

The dress is white, sleeveless, summery. The fabric is decorated with large, orangish flowers — daisies maybe — flowers painted in a way to give the dress more a sense of womanhood than girlhood.  It falls just below my knees, or at least it did the last time I wore it. I was 14, and I wore it to my sister’s funeral.

It was one of my favorite dresses in a time when 1) I hated dresses still and 2) I was expected to wear dresses still to church every sunday. This one felt like me, where all other dresses failed to. It was beautiful but not too cliche “girly.” I was a hardcore tomboy at the time, and struggling to find ways to express my femininity in my style. This simple, beautiful dress had colors that were bold, but not pink, had a short length (for the time), but was still allowed in my conservative household, and was lightweight, feeling like summer.

When I was preparing for the funeral, I couldn’t figure out what to wear. The only black dress I owned was a little more formal, more of a “Little Black Dress,” and I’d only worn it to ceremonies and celebrations like my 8th grade graduation. That felt all wrong.

I could wear pants, my mom said. It didn’t have to be a dress. That felt wrong, too, though.

So I looked at my clothes and I saw the dress with bright flowers that felt like me, and I thought, I wonder if this is OK. It was bright like me. It was fiery like Julie. And I was comfortable in it during a week that I desperately needed comfort. My mom said that would be fine.

I wore the dress as I stood at the pulpit on the lower stage of the church, looking out over a sea of black clothes and sad eyes and I read a poem I had written for her.

And I went home and took off the dress and replaced them with my tomboy clothes, which would shortly thereafter be replaced in life by clothes I’d inherited from my sister, which wouldn’t be replaced with my own clothes and my own struggling style for many years.

That day, the dress got put away in the closet, and stayed there. I have purged my life innumerable times by now. Every time I move, or every time I get sick of digging through my closet, I get rid of things. But I’ve always kept that dress. Because years later I still looked at it and saw something of me in it.

“I could still wear that again,” I told myself when I left for college and took the dress with all my other clothes down to San Diego. I’ve told myself that same thing with every move since then.

But yesterday, a donation truck was coming by our house here in Wichita and I was getting things ready for it the night before, and I saw the dress. The dress that I have never worn again. And I put it in the pile.

I think that dress was proof that I knew who I was then. I knew myself at 14. And I lost myself in the tumultuousness of grief and life change and influential people and more grief and more life change and through all of that I’ve been trying to emerge as someone who knows myself and lets others get to know me.

And while it’s taken 12 years, I think I’m there. Not in an “arrived” sense. But even in the little things. Like the fact that I often will post something on pinterest and one of my friends will see it, not realizing I’m the one who posted it, and send it back to me. It shows how well they know me.

Having been sure I’d found myself again, I was able to let go of the dress that had served as a lamp post, a guiding light all these years.

“I’ll never wear it again,” I finally admitted to myself, “it’s the funeral dress. Let’s be real.”

But that wasn’t the point all these years — the point was I was trying to find the girl who’d worn it the last time. The girl who, in a sea of black, wore white and orange. The girl who wrote about grief, and shared it. The girl who was herself in the face of the storm.

I found her. It’s taken over a decade, but she’s back. I’m back. I’m back.


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 29th, 2015 | Author:

I was walking by the river with my little puppy the other day, like I do almost days. We were approaching the first bridge that the path crosses under, but were still a ways off when I started to hear their whistles and hollers. I couldn’t distinguish their words, or if they were yelling particular words, or just the inarticulate calls that make them feel powerful. They were yelling and whistling at me.

Three young men stood on the over pass, stalled at the end nearest to my side of the river, looking at me approach in the distance, and their yells rung out over the muddy river. The sounds washed over the old man with his cane and his dog in front of me, carrying a lace of threat with them.

I looked up to see who they were, and instinct made me grab for my phone nonchalantly. I continued down the path, toward the bridge where I would pass under them and temporarily out of their sight, and I held my phone in my hand, pretending to be texting, busy. In reality, I had it in my hand as a threat back to them. I can call someone. I can take your picture. These were the messages I was urging my ignoring body-language to convey.

But maybe it doesn’t convey that. Or maybe they don’t care. Because as I got closer, one of them started to walk toward the end of the bridge, toward the arm of the path that would lead them down to me. I slowed my pace, now not only annoyed, but vigilantly aware of what was happening. Not scared yet, but on guard. Torn between what would be more effective: flipping him off and yelling, “F*** off” while taking their photo, or simply avoiding them.

I’ve taken both tactics, and a few others before, usually relying on my gut about which one to choose that time. This time I looked at my dog, pretending to be unaware or unconcerned, as I still watched him and the others in my peripheral vision.

When the other two men turned and walked toward the third, in my direction, I stopped, still a way away (considering this my head start if it came to that) and pulled my puppy off the path onto the grass, telling her to go potty. Pretending like this wasn’t a stall move.

And it worked, the two called to the third, and they all continued back on their way across the bridge, away from me, continuing their loud whistling and lewd calls loudly at me the entire time until I finally disappeared under the overpass.

I stayed there for a few minutes, trying to make sure that they had crossed the bridge and left before I turned around and headed back toward home.

But they had waited for me. They had gone silent as soon as I’d gone under the bridge. But as soon as I emerged, they stood in the same place they’d been before, and the yells, more angry and relentless this time rung out against my back and bouncing off the river water to the banks.

Stand tall. Don’t look back. Walk with confidence. I recited to myself the mantra that I’ve taught to other young girls their first time we go into a third world city like Port Au Prince, Haiti, where rape-culture is a way of life still, not a topic for internet forums.

When I was far enough away, and when a couple and their young children came into view, sauntering my way, toward the bridge, the rude trio finally stopped and walked away, across the bridge, and out of view.

I continued walking, smiled at the friendly family as I passed them, and breathed a sigh as I let my guard down a little again. It was then that I realized: most men, if they don’t do this kind of catcalling, may not even know what it’s like to be subjected to it.

Now, I’ve never really identified as a feminist before, though I probably am one, and I have come to accept catcalling as a regular part of life. I often don’t mind it, even, because often, it’s done without anything that makes me feel threatened.

An idiot teenager hollering out of his car to me as he passes me on the street makes me roll my eyes and smirk as I flip him off, giving him the response he wanted, leaving me only slightly annoyed.

A guy on the street of Seattle recently was getting into his car  while I got into mine in front of him when I heard him laugh, astonished, and then say, in a totally unthreatening way, “Wow. Your ass is amazing. Have a great day,” and then he got into his car and left.

That still would be categorized as cat-calling I think, and probably isn’t appropriate, but that’s the grey area for me, kind of like the Italian men calling out “Ciao Bella” to every woman that passes by.

The thing is though, for every 5 interactions I have on the street with men, 3 are “Ciao Bella” types and 2 make me feel like a spy — casing my surroundings, figuring out what the closest escape route is, reading their body language, gauging how fast and far I can run in those particular shoes or what I have on my person or around me that I could use as a weapon. And I never agreed to be a part of a battle like that. My gender drafted me unwillingly.

I have never had to run away. (Some women have.) I have never had to fight a man. (Some have.) But the fact alone that their words and actions make me feel like I might have to, is not OK. And I am not alone. Recently there have been the videos of the women walking the streets of New York showing the catcalls. Those have sparked conversation — a necessary conversation. But the thing is, it doesn’t just happen in New York.

This happens to women everywhere, everyday.

Not just in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Not even just in NYC. In Wichita. In Sacramento. In the nice parts of San Diego. In the suburbs of Rocklin. In small rural towns. Everywhere. If not daily, at least semi-weekly.

And this is not a diatribe on how it shouldn’t occur. (For the record, it shouldn’t occur.) I doubt those men read my blog. But it is to try to educate the good men around us, just because it occurred to me that you probably don’t really know. It never happens to me when I have anyone of the male world around me. So how would you know?

So men, when your women folk get skittish, when we get a little antsy walking to the car alone at night, or when we want to lock the doors and sleep with the porch light on, most times it’s unnecessary, of course. But this, I think this is why we feel like maybe, just maybe we need to.

I just wanted to give you a glimpse into one of the unspoken, unseen aspects of our daily female lives. No matter where we live. I’m not bitter. I just want to start talking about this stuff more openly.


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, August 11th, 2015 | Author:

Note: These are just in the order I wrote them. I’m including all 12 for posterity, but 1, 4, 5, 10, and 12 are my favorites.

#1 10.26.14 Fear of Fragile

All of us are dying,

that’s the crux of life

Life weights you down

like a child on your knee

ticking off the beat of time.

The living are the breathing

and with our breaths

we cry “too few.”

 

Too few are the breaths and the minutes

and the life that’s spent with you.

For when your breaths are done —

done permanent and final —

we are left with the real

test of grief’s bereft confinement.

Too small will be our breaths

our lungs suddenly too shallow

to take in air to fill our chests

because death hurts our vitals.

 

Fragile is the life of men

where bones break

and flesh is scraped

and hearts stop

in one quick moment.

 

I fear the life that breaks us

the news that knocks on doors,

“Ma’am, your son is dead,”

“Sir, the cancer’s spread,” or the

“I just don’t love you anymore.”

 

I fear the things that shatters worlds

in one swift-kick moment.

It’s hard to live not knowing

how to handle it.

 

The grief that comes and straps you down

like a straight jacket in an asylum.

It holds you, molds you,

then leaves you stripped and done.

 

This fragility is an assault on our senses.

To watch the life leave a body

is to see the flower wither in the sun

to see the short transition

from life to death is so heavy

like watching your own eulogy.

 

Where does the life go? It just fades?

Does it wither or run away?

Does it just cease? How can we know?

How can we ease ourselves

away from this fear of being mortal?

 

Does it ever hurt less, to have

worlds shatter in an instant?

 

#2 12.11.14 Dear Death

(Written after reading an update on my old college chaplain’s wife’s cancer. She passed away soon after.)

Death, go away.

You’ve got the wrong doors.

Death, pack your bags.

You take what isn’t yours.

Death, leave us be.

What are you looking for?

 

Death, you bastard.

You rape us, leave us bleeding.

You take us, no retreating.

You beat us despite our pleading.

What are you looking for?

 

Death, you merciless villain.

You invade common places like the kitchen.

You flip the switch in the prison.

You take the shooter to classrooms with children.

What are you looking for?

 

Death, leave us be.

You strip our joy and bend our knee.

You knock us down, make us scream.

You leave a hole where wholeness should be.

What are you looking for?

 

Death, please, go away.

 

#3 May 4, 2015 Again Alone Written in flight to start a month of travel for the story project

Another airport

another city

another day of traveling alone.

Wandering, wading deeper into the unknown

where I am unknown, without a home.

My heart is a vagabond, a knapsack

to hold its pain, tied to a stick of hope

slung over my shoulder as I trail along.

I am adrift, tossed in the waves,

propelled by the wind, weathered by

the raging sun. And I am searching

for the shores of a home,

but the best I find are islands.

And it’s just not enough.

So I set sail again,

I wash away again,

and I tell myself maybe this will be the time

I’ll find what I’m searching for.

Maybe this time I’ll run aground.

Maybe this will be the time I am found.

Maybe this time I’ll find myself,

and find myself being known.

Maybe my feet will find fertile ground

and roots will shoot down

from the soles of my feet

planting me firmly in a new

somewhere.

 

But until then, it’s another airport.

Another road.

Another city where I will get

to hear the stories of the people.

And I’ll move on,

again alone.

 

#4 JessicaWritten for my sweet, unassuming friend who asked me to make one of my 12 poems about her and who would never normally ask for such a thing, but thought that I would appreciate the bold request. She was right. 

She is the silliness of a four year old

housed in an aging soul.

Her beauty is pure, not boastful

her blue eyes shine like gold.

 

Her heart — oh her heart! —

Her heart is where she lives.

She’s made a home in that

space in her chest.

She invites you to come in.

Her life says, “Come sit,

feel for a while,

Your pain can come in with you.

I’ll yell with your anger

I’ll shout with your joy

your sadness is welcome here, too.

Tell me, is the temperature ok in this room?”

 

Her friendship is lunar,

always present, even in distance.

Always beautiful, even in darkness.

She participates in life like an event.

Everything is to be remembered,

even this very moment.

 

Her words are soft,

her squeals are loud.

Her life is loving.

Her parents are proud.

 

She is a well of life

smiling at the world from behind sweet freckles.

 

#5 Let me hurt. (written after hearing Abandon Kansas’ Jeremy Spring describe their new album saying “I’m just gonna let it hurt for a while”)

Just let me hurt for a while.

Don’t choke me out

trying to tie a bow around it.

It’s a wound,

not a present.

I’m broken,

not wrapped.

I’m bleeding out and you

used a ribbon as a tourniquet.

Don’t do it.

Please, let me hurt for a while —

it’s all that I have left.

 

F*cks, hells, and shits

punctuate my language.

Pain leaks

into my sentences.

Because when I’m honest, sometimes

my brokenness still feels fresh.

I didn’t know grief could be

so violent without death.

Don’t demand a positive spin.

A silver lining won’t fix it.

So please, let me hurt for a while —

it’s all that I have left.

 

I wonder how long it will be

before I can breathe through the memory.

Because right now, to remember

still feels like drowning.

Because right now, in my hometown

I still feel like an enemy.

Someday there will be more, but

for now this is my story.

So just let me hurt for a while — I’m sorry.

It’s all that I have left.

 

I’ve barely started

to trust again.

But I’m afraid of myself

in the end.

I don’t totally know

how to get around this bend.

I don’t totally know

if I’m good at being a friend.

When I tell the truth,

I’m afraid I will offend.

I want vulnerability.

I want to mend.

But just let me hurt for a while —

it’s all that I have left.

 

#6 Close

Don’t get too close.

Don’t hold me tight.

My fear will lead me

straight to flight.

 

I’ll stay right here,

you stay right there,

or you’ll look for me and

I’ll disappear into thin air.

 

If you approach, do it slow.

Don’t try to take control.

If you do,

I’ll up and go.

 

But if you find your way,

If you become near, you see,

know that you’re dear to me.

 

If you ebb and flow

slowly gaining ground

don’t say it too loud.

 

It scares me when people know

that they are in my heart

it’s a power that could tear me apart.

 

#7 I Lie To Me

“I can’t do this”

I’ve breathed too many times.

I am quick to admit defeat to me,

But outwardly I claw and gnaw

at the challenge threatening to stop me.

I lie to myself

but it feels like the truth.

My words battle my will —

with each failure admission

I take a breath and try again.

“I can’t do this” is the mantra

on the way to my success.

Somehow my stubborn will

ignores my cries and tries and tries

until it is finished.

I am always surprised at

myself in the end.

Why do I still believe

I cannot do this?

Maybe some day I’ll believe in myself

the way my spirit does again.

 

#8 As It Happens (written upon moving to Wichita, June, 2015)

By happenstance I met a band,

their name: Abandon Kansas.

Once upon a time

they stopped through where I lived.

 

By happenstance I saw a band photo,

after many years had passed.

Facebook let us

become friends fast.

 

By happenstance I went on a road trip

and I stopped where the band lives.

I wandered downtown,

saw where the river splits.

 

By happenstance I fell in love

with the town on the plains and

I thought — “This feels like

what a hometown is.”

 

Two years later, on purpose,

I actually live in Kansas.

 

#9 — Our Father Who Art In Heaven

Our Father

Our. The peoples of the earth,

of all shapes and sizes

Our. The people from the dirt,

our colors pre-decided.

Our. Those around the town

neighbors to one another.

Our. Those spread apart who

don’t care about each other.

Our. The slave and the owner.

Our. The president and the lawn mower.

Our. The world that God so loved.

 

Who is

Is. Is there in our brokenness and weakness.

Is. Is Immanuel — God with us.

Is. Is familiar with our pain.

Is. Is the love that will not stain.

Is. Is the heart that won’t grow cold.

 

In heaven

Heaven. Where there’s no more pain.

Heaven. Where the racist is forced to change.

Heaven. Where the lightness reigns.

Heaven. Where death is illegal.

Heaven. Where we’re all equal people.

Heaven. Where brokenness is made whole.

Heaven. Where we are all loved and known.

Heaven. Here now when we bring love home.

 

#10 Break and Fall (written because it was the last day and I needed more poems)

Day break

When my heart breaks when I wake

I know thats a day break.

The day I break,

A day that acts

Just like you.

 

And heart break,

What does that mean?

My heart burns

But this isn’t heart burn

It’s heart break,

Like an earth quake,

It makes my chest shake,

But I’m from California,

I’ve done this before.

 

These walls are too thick

To let your pain score,

They won’t crack,

I’ll just be sore.

I know the drill,

Even if I don’t live there anymore.

 

Night fall.

When I fall into bed at

The end of the day

I know that I’ve failed again,

Fallen again into that trap

of routine where my days start

with breaking, end with falling

and its just you in between.

Grief, you dirty bastard,

you won’t ruin me.

 

#11 Just a day

Early morning dew rises and gives way

to the heat of the day.

The grass dries,

my eyelids rise,

my heart is full.

 

Coffee cup is emptied with the dawn long gone,

the day draws on.

My hunger paces,

my mind races,

my fingers type away.

 

Afternoon slinks in without warning

of the exit of the morning.

My thoughts slow,

heart rate low,

creativity’s around the corner.

 

Three o’clock comes and I don’t mind the sitting

now that it’s productivity city.

Here we go.

Here we go.

My brain chants silently.

 

Happy hour is just an hour

when happiness is a regular prowler.

The dusk dawns,

fireflies turn on,

I walk down by the river.

 

Evening brings the close of a day

normal in most ways.

I worked away,

played in spades,

and my heart is still full.

 

#12 “26.” (written on the back porch in the eve of my last day of being 25)

Tomorrow marks the anniversary

of 26 years spent here.

26 years since that August morning

that I came home gift baring,

as my eyes held newborn tears.

A slip and slide was my peace offering

to the boy and the girl — my siblings.

That’s the story I’ve been told.

 

26 years is long enough to hold enough pain,

and not nearly enough life.

My appetite for life is voracious,

so hand me my fork and my knife.

When I get to the end of it all,

I want to still hunger,

content, but not satisfied.

For as long as I live,

there’s always more that I want out of life.


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, July 14th, 2015 | Author:

It’s a weekend afternoon and I’m sitting out in the front yard, looking at my slack line slung between two trees while I write this.

I was just on it a moment ago. And again several moments before that. And again several moments before that. That’s how slack lining goes for me. I do several attempts to cross its length: Sometimes I make it, sometimes I fall after a step or four or ten. After several rounds of this my balance starts to suffer as my muscles and focus fatigue, so I go sit down and take a short break, and then I go back to it, and so on.

That’s the thing that slack lining has taught me. I put it on my birthday goals list this year to try slack lining before I turned 26. In between writing it down as “try slack lining” and getting the opportunity to try it at my neighbor’s in Denver several months later, I misremembered my goal as “learn how to slack line.”

Before I had ever tried the activity, I thought of those as being pretty much the same goal. Then I thought, like many things, it may just come easily and naturally to me. When I was young we didn’t have much money and I had friends who did gymnastics. I always wanted to do it, too, but we couldn’t afford it. So my dad made a “balance beam” for us kids to do our own gymnastics on. It was a 1×4 board nailed to a base. I learned how to balance really well by the time I ever got to visit the gymnastics gym for a birthday party and walk across their real balance beam. Turns out if you learn to balance on a 1” wide board, you can balance on the 5” balance beam without problems.

But fast forward 20 years and I stepped onto the 1” wide slack line and everything on my body, and the line itself began to shake uncontrollably. I fell off as soon as I let go before I could even take one step. But in my mis-remembrance of my goal, I committed to learning how to do this.

The biggest lesson was learning how to fall. The only time I got slightly injured while slack lining was near the beginning of my learning time, and it was because when I started to fall, I tried to prevent the fall by taking another step. My second foot caught on the wobbling line and I fell body first to the ground, no feet free to land with. I hit hard hurting my tail bone and my hip.

To fall well while slacklining, you have to be aware of yourself. Aware of your balance. Aware of your core muscles and your hands lifted high for balance. You have to be able to assess if you could try to salvage your balance or, if it’s time, to just give in to the fall.

Now that I’ve been doing it for a few months, I’m still not good at slack lining, but I’m great at falling. Each fall is an act of acceptance. Falling is part of it. I step into it now, feeling the fall starting, I just step down into a walking landing. I use my momentum of those exiting steps to direct me back to the end of the line, so that I can hop up and start trying again.

When I first started trying to learn, I would thud down heavy with each fall. Sometimes it would hurt my feet. Sometimes I’d try to stay on the line longer while I fell, not ready to accept defeat for that try. It is with the acceptance of loss, the acceptance of failure that I’ve begun to make headway and begun to spend more time on the line than off of it.

It’s a dance. On the line, falling, salvage it, falling again, I accept it, I take the step off while walking to the beginning and then I’m up, at it again.

It’s become clear to me that success at this activity, and in life, has less to do with how often you fail and fall, and more to do with whether you fall well and continue to head right back to try again.

I’m 25, and after knowing the gut-wrenching ache of loss of the big things in life, I’ve begun to notice that when littler things go wrong, I hold everything very loosely. As my muscles get stronger and I get more focus, I can sometimes salvage the fall, I can sometimes correct in time to stay on the line, I can also see when it’s worth it to just give in to the fall and use the momentum to keep moving forward to try again.

I thought I was learning the art of slack lining, but I’ve learned that failing and falling and persistence are the art.

Success and slack lining are what come as a result of doing the other three well.


 

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, March 31st, 2015 | Author:

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He must’ve been about 6 years old. His head full of blondish brown curls. He was tall, lanky, apparently even the “slim fit” pants would fall down because of his narrow width.

I was a toddler, about three years old, with baby-fat chubby cheeks, big blue eyes, and blond hair bleached blonder by hours spent outside in the sun. I wore solid colored shorts with elastic bands (as is common for toddlers), and I’d always pull them down to the lowest point possible on my hips. (I don’t know if you knew this, but I liked hip huggers before they were cool. I was pretty hipster.) And I was a hard-core 3-year-old subscriber to the idea that barefoot is best.

Usually though, when I was doing things like riding a bike (with training wheels, because hey, I was a toddler and this is a true story) or a scooter, or rough and tumble things like that, I was required to wear my shoes.

One of our biggest activities as siblings was to climb this big mulberry tree we had in our back yard. We also loved to jump out of the tree. I was allowed to climb the tree barefooted, which really helped feed my desire to become Pocahontas when I grew up, but I was not allowed to jump out of the tree barefooted at this age.

And the same was true for the swings.

My brother Jason and I had this game where we would swing, and instead of just jumping off the swings like children of average talent, we came up with a more elite, challenging twist: One of us would jump off the swing and just as they jumped, the other would yell something that the jumper had to act out before landing.

Example: Jason jumps. I yell, “The Sun!” Jason puts his hands up to his face jazz hand style to display the sun mid-jump, then he lands. Somehow many of the shapes/things we acted out involved a very similar display of flaying arms and legs out to our sides and/or jazz hands. OK, maybe we weren’t above average ability like we thought, but our denial was strong.

One day Jason and I were out swinging barefooted in the afternoon sun, and I suddenly jumped off the swing. “Joanna!” he yelled. Which was weird, because I didn’t have to change my shape at all because I already was a Joanna before I landed.

“What?” I asked once I landed my jump with olympic precision. “Why’d you just say my name?”

“You know you’re not supposed to jump off the swings or out of the trees without shoes on,” he said.

“But I hate shoes.”

“We can play the game, but you have to go inside and put shoes on first.”

“Fine,” I said.

So I went inside and put on my saltwater sandals, knowing that option wasn’t up to par, but thinking I’d try it anyway.

I went back out and said, “Ok, ready!”

“Little girl, those aren’t shoes,” he responded, giving me that sideways glance that big brothers can give, even when they’re skinny bean poles with floppy blond curls.

“But, these still protect my feet,” I retorted.

“Fine, next time you have to wear shoes, though,” he relented.

“Yes! Ok, you jump first!” I said, full of glee at my triumph. I hopped on the swing, and pumped my legs as hard as I could to get up to speed with him.

“Flower!” I yelled as he jumped, and he kept his legs straight like a stem, put his arms out wide with splayed jazz-hand fingers for leaves, and made his face cheery like a flower while he landed.

———————

I’ve always remembered this instance, because it’s the perfect summation of who my big brother has always been to me.

He’s always been my friend and my playmate. But he’s always been there to protect me without inhibiting me as well.

But while he is there to be a voice of reason, a voice of caution, the most important part is the stableness in the fact that he is there.

In the aftermath of my life falling apart, I had one afternoon where I was sitting in my car, up on a hill overlooking the town and the railroad tracks. And it was the only time I have ever legitimately had both the desire and the will to run away. I saw the train coming in at a slow chug, and I thought, “This is it. Just leave your phone, your keys, your purse, everything. Just jump on that train and make a new life from scratch.” I used all of my willpower to force myself to stay in that car until the train passed, because I knew if I opened the door, it would happen. I would run.

As I told my brother and parents about this day about a year later, Jason came to me and hugged me, and said, “I’m glad you didn’t get on the train. I would’ve had to go and search and find you to make sure you were alright.” He said it with a veil of joking in his voice, but his message was real.

Note that he didn’t say he’d have to go find me and bring me home. He said he’d find me to make sure I was alright.

Jason has never tried to dissuade me from one of my various adventures or antics, but he occasionally does voice the helpful thoughts like, “You can jump off the swing, but you should wear your shoes.”

His protection is always selfless. And that’s a trait I have yet to find in anyone else in the world.

I know it’s not easy to watch people you love go off and traipse around the world, and have adventures that will probably turn into crazy stories, but that also have to potential to go wrong.

I know it’s not easy to be the big brother to the fearless three-year-old who will jump from the highest branch, or the galavanting 25-year-old who blows about with the wind. But he does it. Consistently. And he does it well. He has mastered the art of being a loving, protective big brother, while also letting me fly free and being happy for me as I go.

And while I live in different cities and states (and sometimes countries) from him, I still value the times we do get to do life together. Because he was my first best friend, and he’ll be one of my best friends until the end. And there’s something extremely valuable about someone who both tells you to put shoes on, and then jumps off the swings with you. Someone who would track you down when you ran away, not to drag you home, but to make sure you were OK. Someone who loves you like he does.

Happy birthday week to my dear big brother who I squabble with in love, talk to as a friend, and who takes up much more than his share of the couch when we’re watching a movie together as a family. There’s no one quite like you. I love you, Jas.

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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, January 20th, 2015 | Author:

A couple of years ago I was visiting my friend on her night shift at work and she had to leave to go tend to an issue. I sat waiting for her, and while I waited I replied to a friend’s text asking what I was doing with a picture of the barren room: “hanging at my friend’s work. Riveting.”

I was just being sassy, as I tend to be sometimes.

“Bored?” he asked.

It so caught me off guard that I remember it to this day. Because no, I wasn’t bored. I was waiting. Obviously he was just responding to my wording. A sarcastic “riveting” would usually mean “bored” I realized. But it took me by surprise and I had to think for a moment before I responded.

Because this is the thing: I’m not a mother, so I don’t hear the word bored very often. I don’t have children around me who complain of being bored and most of the adult friends I have in my life are productive people with pretty full schedules. I didn’t realize that bored was as much missing from my lifestyle as it was missing from my regular vocabulary.

It reminded me of a time when I was a kid and I heard a friend talk about being bored. Her mom responded saying, “If you guys can’t find something to play, I have lots of chores I can give you to keep you busy.” We found something to play.

I don’t actually recall ever being “bored” in my life except for two instances: one was when I was reading Jane Eyre late at night and was struggling to stay awake because the way she wrote it droned on and on and I declared her style a bit “boring.” And the other was a math class I had in high school where the teacher had incredible monotone-syndrome. But even in that class, we found ways to entertain ourselves (namely, sharing earbuds and listening to Dane Cook while we did our math work).

Aside from that I was always playing something, taking care of responsibilities, coming up with “adventures,” or creating something or another.

And what I’ve learned is that there’s three ways to fight boredom. You can do, create, or consume.

Some people spend entire days watching Netflix. Heck, when I was in college especially, there were many days that we spent in someone’s dorm room watching episode after episode of some show or another. We were not bored, though admittedly we could’ve done more with our time.

But one of the real gifts of my life was when I first lived alone and I didn’t have internet at home.

The internet thing was a decision I made just to save money. But what it ended up doing was making me very comfortable, very content with just being me, just entertaining myself by myself. There was no Netflix or Facebook or any of the other myriad time-fillers I’d been used to in my college days.

Last year around this time I was living alone in a city where I still had literally no friends I hung out with, and I started to make art. More and more art. Art everyday that I wasn’t doing something else. Sometimes I’d consume while I created by watching a movie or the seasons of FRIENDS that I own on DVD, but I continued to create at a rate that I’m actually shocked at when I look back. In the year of 2014 I created over 80 completed art works, when I had done maybe 1-2 in any previous year. Over half of those were done in the first 3 months of the year before I had friends to hang out with.

I also started writing last year regularly. (Oh hey, if you didn’t know, I blog on here every week courtesy of me finding things to do with my time while I lived alone. End of shameless plug.) I’d heard someone say that writing a book is the loneliest thing you’ll ever do, so I thought, “I should start writing, and maybe write a book, because I’m lonely right now anyway.”

But also in living alone I got this gift against boredom: it taught me how to be content and interested when I’m by myself. To be able to sit quietly, and soak in the sun, or hear the birds chirp, or breathe in the steam from a warm cup of coffee. It taught me the joy and the rest in being still without being bored.

Now I’m coming into a busy season of life again and it’s energizing and exciting. But above all the ways my life has taught me how to not be bored, how to make the most of my time, and how to be content with others as we spend time together without grand things to do, I value the lesson I’ve learned about how to enjoy being still and taking a breath perhaps the most. It’s in the busy seasons when it’d be easiest to not do so, but when it’s most refreshing as well.

So, sorry future kids, but you don’t get the option of being bored. I think that will be a main house rule. Life’s too short to squander in boredom.

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
Wednesday, January 07th, 2015 | Author:

“We need to talk,” she said to me in a serious yet conspiring tone.

We walked with rushing feet to our personal conference room — the Children’s Church room at the back of the church where we’d hang out before church. We were two rambunctious 8-year-old girls who got to church early with our parents when they had to do something or another for the service.

Once within the confines of our private scheme-building room, we stood in the middle of the room, near the wall with the old piano that I’d play for us sometimes.

We stood facing each other, and I was not nervous as adults are when someone says to them, “we need to talk.” — I was eager to hear what was so important.

“Did you hear that his parents are getting a divorce?”

“I know,” I said, looking down, not knowing what that really meant or entailed, but knowing it was bad. “My mom told me.”

He was a boy in our grade who we’d known for the past few years. He was our number one enemy. His life goal was to annoy us. And our lives’ goals were to make him look like a fool by pulling pranks and such. This was the essence of most of our friendships with kids of the opposite sex, as seems to be the norm. But he and one other boy were our particular enemies and we paid each other more mutual attention than we paid the other kids.

medium_301168593photo credit: rolands.lakis via photopin cc

“I think we need to be his friend now,” she said to me, the decision already made.

“Yeah. I think you’re right. That would be good,” I replied. I hadn’t thought of that, or realized it was needed until she said it. But once she did, it was decided. Third-grader conference of the year over.

It was one of the most important, efficient, and impactful conferences I’ve ever been a part of, and the decision stuck. We started that day at church. We didn’t drop the enemy act, but we had changed our heart toward him, and he changed his toward us. We continued to be frenemies all through high school.

When we were in junior high, he gave me one of the best christmas gifts I’ve ever received — he bought, with his own money, the movie Princess Diaries for me on VHS. He knew I loved it, and that was far above the $1-5 gifts we had sometimes exchanged in the past. He told me I couldn’t tell anyone he had gotten it for me because that would show that we were friends, so I didn’t, but we watched it together nearly weekly for about a year until we moved onto other fixations.

I’ve seen him a couple times this past year, and each time, I’ve thought how much I enjoy him as a person and a friend. But I may not have been friends with him had she not pulled me into that children’s church room and presented her idea for what we needed to do.

She saw disaster on the horizon and proposed a plan of action. I just followed.

We were in high school when her parents divorced as well. I was still friends with her, but in the of-course-we’re-friends way, not in the I-am-here-for-you-in-daily-life way. Our paths had started to take us in different directions, and I’m sad that I didn’t have a conference with anyone, declaring “we need to be friends with her.”

The truth is, a lot of people stepped away from her in that painful time. The girl who intentionally stepped in at 8. The girl who recognized the severity of the pain of divorce before she’d ever felt it. The girl who put aside sacred cooty-laws and annoyance-wars to be a friend. She was pushed to the outskirts and left alone in her time of pain.

It is a hard thing to see and recognize that you do not always reap what you sow. Mean people sometimes prosper and good people sometimes get left. At least it feels that way sometimes.

But the thing is, the girl who has heart enough to decide to be friends with a hurting enemy at 8 years old, she will be a woman who will live life well. She will be the type of woman who has deep friendships with people she’s met in passing. She will be a friend even when she is in pain. And some of those relationships will give back to her as well. The humility that lets her put aside childhood feuds also strengthens her to reach out to people who need a second chance in her life.

And that gives me hope about life and about the world. Because, almost two decades later, I still remember her as the girl who decided to be a friend when she didn’t have to be, and she got me to do so too. And the woman I know her as now still has that same understanding, supportive, caring heart.

I don’t know about the whole reap what you sow thing, because life has dealt her a crappy and painful hand several times.

But I am confident that when you have that goodness inside that she does, that everything will be okay. That you will continue to make a life worth living. That you will continue to build friendships worth having. That you will continue to find your way, and choose your path. That while life may be ugly and painful and hard, you will be the type of person that responds, that works through it, and that decides to love life again.

And that is really what matters above all else. You don’t always get to choose what happens to you or those around you in life, but you do get to choose how to respond. When pain shows up, will you step in? Will you give up or keep trying. Will you choose to love life again and again and again?

Life may not always be easier for good people, but it is more beautiful and more worth loving when you’re the type of person who steps in.

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