Tag-Archive for » love «

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 | Author:

I’m not dating anyone right now. But I can guarantee you one thing: if I were, about 50% or more of the people in my life, upon me saying I was dating someone, would ask two questions:

  1. What’s his name?
  2. Does he love Jesus?/Is he following the Lord?/ Is he a christian?

storyofjo dating, Jesus, Church, Satire

Growing up in the church, it was clear to me that a potential partner (i.e. anyone I’d date, because why, for the love of pete, would you date anyone that you weren’t “probably going to marry”? —I have thoughts on that for another day) needed to go to church and be a Christian. Which, by the way, is the real question lurking behind the guise of the trite question “does he love Jesus” for at least 50% of those 50+% that ask.

Being a christian (read: church culture participation) was the most important thing. So much so that the people who know a guy or gal marginally enough to ask whether the person they’re dating loves Jesus often stop asking about the person after that question is answered.

My parents have been delicate in this with me, which I appreciate, but I didn’t know exactly what I thought about it until a couple years ago when I started to date someone who didn’t know how he felt about God and was not involved in the church. “American Christian/agnostic” was probably a good description of where he was at.

While we’re weren’t in a relationship, just going on dates getting to know one another, I found myself one afternoon in a car with my mom when she brought it up. I could tell she’d been thinking about it a while. It wasn’t her first or second question about him. But it still came to that question, or rather that concern (which, for the record, I think is fine. Parents, I hope you hope for what you believe to be best for your children. Christ, christian culture, church, whatever included.)

“I am a little concerned about the whole belief in God thing, Jo,” she said sensitively. I knew she brought it up because she cared.

My response, though it did not feel defensive, felt heavy, and my words surprised me and educated me on how I felt as they left my lips.

“He treats me well. He’s kind to me. He respects me as a human being. I’m sorry mom, but those are things that are more important to me right now than him believing in God. I’ve been hurt and disrespected by men who believe in God before. I’d rather date a kind, respectful man who doesn’t know what he believes, or knows that he doesn’t believe in God, than the opposite.”

I still stand by that. Because when it comes down to it, loving Jesus is a matter of the heart, and it changes you. I have known, and known of, far too many “christian men” who act in ways toward others I would never desire. I will choose a man with a loving, kind heart like Jesus’ heart (whether he thinks Jesus is a falsity or not) first and foremost, every time.

Ideally, I think life is often easier when couple’s belief systems line up. Ideally, I’d like that for my own life in the long run. Heck, ideally, I’d like to figure out what my belief system is for myself at some point. But when it comes down to it, when I’m dating someone, I will have far more questions that are more important to me than what his name is, and does he “love Jesus.”

Here are some good questions that should be answered about the man/woman you date or those you care deeply for are dating:

  1. What is his name?
  2. What do you like about him?
  3. Does he have a history of violent crime? (Yes, it’s still a crime if he wasn’t caught.)
  4. Does he batter women? (Yes, you count in that. Yes, every other woman counts in that.)
  5. Does he deal drugs?  (This can endanger you. Have you seen breaking bad?)
  6. Has he ever made you feel less valuable? (Chances are you are not “crazy” even if he says you are.)
  7. Does he participate in illegal dog fights? (Please tell me you’re not dating Michael Vick.)
  8. How does he treat the waiter when you’re at a restaurant? (Waiters are people too.)
  9. How does he treat poorer people? (Poorer people are people too.)
  10. Does he care about the earth? (We all should, but at least make sure you’re compatible.)
  11. Does he cheat on you constantly? (No, I’m not going to define “cheat” for you.)
  12. Does he cheat on you occasionally? (No, I’m not going to define “occasionally” for you.)
  13. Will you have to compromise your dreams, ambitions, or personality traits to be with him? (that’s right, sh*t just got real.)
  14. Is he part of the CIA and thus might have to lie a lot and probably get your house shot up at least once? (I know you loved the show Alias, but I’ve heard rumors that real life might be different than TV.)
  15. Is his main form of income acting in pornos? (Again, if you’re OK with this, fine, if not, it maaayyy be a red flag.)
  16. Is he racist, homophobic, or otherwise scared or hateful toward any people group? (No jokes here. 100% Legitimate question.)
  17. Does he ask you to have sex with others in exchange for money? (Unless you realize he is your pimp and you are ok with this. If that is not the case, this is not love, honey.)
  18. Does he require you to perform degrading acts in the bedroom that you do not consent to? (You have a woman-born right to get the hell out of that relationship.)
  19. Does he stone you for not wearing your burka? (Probably not a great guy.)
  20. Does he drown kittens for fun? (I mean, as long as he loves Jesus this one is probably ok.)
  21. Does he love to burn things to the ground and ask you to wait at home? (This is called arson and could leave you lonely while he is in prison.)
  22. Does he ask you to drive getaway cars when he robs banks? (This is participation in a felony — Orange probably isn’t really the new black. Just food for thought.)

But hey, pretty much all of these are fine if he goes to church. You know that, right? You didn’t? Oh, good, now you guys are set.

 

*Note. This is satire. If you didn’t catch that. Just wanted to be sure.


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, June 30th, 2015 | Author:

This is not an opinion on the passing of the marriage equality law.

This is not an opinion on homosexuality.

This is an opinion about people who call themselves christians. And the heavy weight that entails.

 

In my blog post a few weeks back, I wrote, “even with all my qualms, and doubts, and wounds from the church, I would still call myself a christian.”

It physically made my chest cavity hurt to write that sentence. Because as I have found myself on the outskirts of the church — sometimes by my own choosing, sometimes not — I have begun to see more clearly what the church looks like to the rest of the world. What christians look like to the rest of the world. And I have found myself relating more to those on the outside of the church — especially those who used to belong to the church and got hurt or disillusioned and left — than I relate to those inside.

The christianese language sounds foreign and fake to me though it once spilled out of my mouth with fluidity.

Similarly the ways the church talks about and approaches problems and hardships in life feels not just unnatural, but fake as well. Though I have lost touch with the church culture, I have not lost touch with the personality of God and his son. And I’m seeing more and more and more how much of a disparity there is between mainstream American christian and church culture and the personality of God.

And then there’s this: there’s a commandment — one of those ten big rules to live by in the Christian and Jewish life — You shall not use the name of the Lord in vain.

I grew up with that being explained as why we don’t say “Oh my God” or “Jesus Christ” as an exclamation.

For a long time I would notice each and every time someone around me said either of those. I didn’t mind it if they weren’t a christian, because I understood that those that do not follow a belief system should not be held up to the specific standards of said belief system.  But I still noticed it.

Then, a few years back, I was working for a church in San Diego in youth ministry and I came upon this study about the 10 commandments. When it came to the “do not take the name of the Lord in vain” command, I was blown away by the authors’ interpretation.

He said that the commandment is about misrepresenting God, not saying “Oh my God.”

And what had once been the most trivial of the commandments became one of, if not the most important commandment to me.

When you do things in the name of God that have no business with God, you are breaking this command.  When you spread hate in God’s name, you are misrepresenting the character and name of God. When you are vicious to the world that God so loves, you are dragging his name through the mud. When apartheids and slavery and crusades and protests at funerals and wishing ill on a people group and refusing to acknowledge someone’s humanity and refusing to forgive and standing up for a cause that is against people not for people all take place in the name of God — that name is sullied — for some people beyond repair.

The world is full of people who think they have been hurt by God, simply because the “people of God” hurt them using His name.

And this fills my throat with hot bile and my eyes with hot tears. Because that is not who God is. And if you are in the business of misrepresenting God to the world, you are not an agent of God.  You are worse than the merchants at the temple gates charging too much for sacrificial animals — the people whose actions Jesus so detested that he threw their tables and scattered their goods. The peaceful Jesus, the Son of Peace, is also a son of Justice, and when people’s actions under the guise of being “from God” keep people away from God, he will not stand for it. He will make a scene. Because as far as I can tell, there is nothing that angers God more than people hurting people and doing it in His name.

The repercussions are biblically harsh for people who lead others away from God, either by misinformation (i.e. the Prosperity gospel which doesn’t pan out anywhere where pain or hardship spring up) or by harm (like hateful words or actions).

It pained me to say I was a christian — which pained me then further to have that realization — because one, I want to make severely sure that if I call myself by the name of God that I am not misrepresenting Him. And two, because the label “christian” is so saturated by those who misrepresent the God who by his own definition is Love.

I don’t have an ending to this. It’s something I needed to air and get off my chest and challenge you with as I am challenged by it as well. The next time you speak or act in God’s name, please take into consideration that this is a huge command. If you have an opinion that you are not sure aligns with God’s, call it your own, not a “christian opinion.” It’s time we all stopped using God’s word, God’s will, and God’s name as an umbrella excuse to act and spout what we will without room for challenge.

We shall not misrepresent God. We shall not hate or harm in the name of God. We shall not keep people away from God.

I’m practicing this in my own life as well. It takes some guts to say what I think, not what I think God says. My hope is that what I think will align with God thinks often, but if it doesn’t, I’ve not marred His name or his reputation in the process. It’s up to me to own my own thoughts and actions. The higher power I believe in is not an excuse for any of my attitudes or behaviors. And I will not label them as such. God is love. If I am less than that, it is because of me, not Him.

To those who have been hurt by myself or another “christian” misrepresenting God: I’m so, so sorry.

To those that are gay, black, female, poor, of a different religion, or anyone who the church (including me) has outcast, ignored, or persecuted — I am sorry. My heart is changing. I am praying for the heart of the church to change. But I am certain that the heart of God has not changed — He loves you. I’m sorry if you’ve been fed a message that is different than that. It’s a lie.

He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. And He tells us, the hypocritical christians, to love you and one another as well. Not only in our hearts, but in our actions, in our lives.


 

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, March 03rd, 2015 | Author:

Eleven years. It’s been 11 years since she died. My older sister. Julie.

Two years ago on my birthday, I wrote a column about celebrating even when it’s hard, and I talked about when my sister died, and the birthdays that followed. In the piece, there was this line: “When my older sister passed away, the timing was really terrible.”

We were at dinner — my older brother, my parents, and me — when I read them my column for that month. When I read that line, they all laughed. I laughed a little when I wrote it. Because it’s true, it was horrible timing when she died. As if death ever comes at a good time, but hers was particularly bad timing.

She died 3 days after her 21st birthday. Two months before graduating college. Three months before her one year wedding anniversary (they’d just purchased a cruise for the occasion). And in the first month following her death we had to celebrate my dad’s birthday, her husband’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, and Easter.

But I was glad that my family laughed at the line. Because that’s what I have begun to see as a sign of healing — being able to call things what they are. Being able to say that the timing was horrible and laugh at how irreverent it sounds and how true it is.

It took us several years as a family to know what to do with our “Julie week” of her birthday and anniversary of death. It was hard to talk about her for a long time. We each processed at different paces, and while some of us wanted to remember, it was too hard for the others. And visa versa other times.

Eventually, though, we ended up creating a sort of tradition when we were all living near one another (I’m the one that lives elsewhere some years, like this year). We get together and go out to dinner at the Olive Garden (her favorite — but give her a break, she was a 21-year-old broke college student/piano teacher. The Olive Garden was a splurge to her) and we tell stories to remember her. Not the stories that were told at the funeral. Those were too nice. Too kosher. For a long time, that’s all we or anyone would do — tell the funeral-appropriate stories. The ones where she seems so much more lovely, and so much less like the girl we grew up with and loved indefinitely not even despite, but with her flaws.

It took several years to find the freedom to remember her more accurately. To laugh at her precociousness, her sometimes judgmental nature, her infuriating stubbornness. To admit that amidst her mounds of talent, she was deeply insecure. To remember her harsh exterior that came out quite a bit, not just the softness that existed underneath, too. To remember the way her long red hairs got EVERYWHERE.  It was literally over a year before I stopped finding her hairs woven into the fabric of my clothes from the laundry.

Again, I think it’s a sign of healing, of acceptance, to be able to laugh. I have this theory that I will teach my children if they are ever bullied — laughing at something takes it’s power away.

And I think for our family, when we were able to finally laugh again at the memories of our sister, it was a sign that we were taking power away from grief. We had to let it run its course. That’s not optional. But finally, we found our way to a place where we could remember what was true.

And with that allowance, it is a double edged sword, because remembering the real Julie, means acknowledging the realness that we loved that we don’t have anymore. It means acknowledging the loss, not of some idealized saint, but of our very real sister who we very real-ly loved.

I think we learned this from my mom. We grew up hearing what I would name the “rascal boys stories” — stories of her and her two brothers while they were growing up. But in the stories, there were two brothers, and in life when we were hearing the stories, there was only one brother. We were missing an uncle. He died before I was born. I only know him from the stories.

But the Uncle Randy I know was deeply troubled and deeply loved. He was a lovable little boy. But he had a lot of problems socially and relationally. He got into trouble. He lived a rough life. But in the stories, I could hear him laughing. I could hear him crying. I could see him be tricked by his brother. And blamed for something his sister did. And I could see him yelling. I could see him getting arrested. I could see him dancing at his wedding. I could see him hitchhiking across the country to his new home in New York. And I could sense how much my mom and her family loved this very real, imperfect man.

I’ve never met him, but because of the stories, I know him a little bit. A non-idealized, real version of him. And because of that, he’s never felt like a story character — he’s felt like family. Real-life, living and breathing, blood and guts family.

That’s my hope as we move onward in this life and we carry the loss with us. That we will continue to choose to tell the stories of real-life Julie. That we will remember her as she was, and laugh at what needs to be laughed at and feel for the things that need to be felt. That we will love her in death the way we loved her in life. Real-ly. Because she was real, and our love for her still is. It is good to remember.

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Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers this week as her birthday is this Wednesday and the anniversary of her death is Saturday. 


 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     www.storiesbyJo.com

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below
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.

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“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
Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 | Author:

I was sitting in a new church, in a new city, feeling very unknown again for the umpteenth time. It was my first time to the church, and while it felt warm and welcoming, I still felt new, knowing not a single person there.

It was the end of actually a really touching, raw and honest church service, and the worship band started to play, and the song that we all began to sing was not new to me. Somehow in the singing of a common song, I felt a little less alone, a little less like a stranger. It was a song I’d sung in the past with people who knew me as well as you can know a person. It was a song I’d sung before when I was new in a church, feeling uncomfortable. It was a song I’d sung on my own, in my bedroom while journaling through some dark times.

I knew the song well, and it seemed to know me in my broken moment.

These are the lyrics:

 

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

 

Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me
Never runs out on me
Never runs out on me

 

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains

 

In death, in life, I’m confident and
Covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can
Separate my heart from Your great love

And I stood there singing this song that I knew so well when all of a sudden I realized something about it for the first time.

At the end of the second verse, as it goes into the chorus again, these are the words: “I never ever have to be afraid… one thing remains… your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.”

As I sung those words, I realized that to me, what I’ve been meaning when I sing this is a reminder to myself: I don’t have to be afraid, God’s love never runs out on me. But not in the “We ran out of money now we don’t have any” way, but in the “my dad ran out on us” way.

I had never realized before that I’m afraid that love will run out on me. That those who love me will leave. That the God who created me would just decide that I’ve been taking too long, wandering too far, questioning too much, and that he would decide it wasn’t worth it to chase me anymore. I never would’ve voiced that before, but that’s the deep fear, the deep ache of things too scary to think about — that maybe God’s love, and others people’s love will run out on me.

And in terms of other people, that’s a real fear, because it’s a real possibility. I’m learning to trust people with my heart again, but that piece is still there.

But with God I’d never realized that that was a fear of mine as well. That’s not based in truth, or in experience. It’s just fear. And this song, that line, it speaks to those vulnerable, fearful places deep inside me and reminds me of what’s true: I don’t have to be afraid, God’s love will never run out on me. And it will never run out on you.

My favorite image of God is based in an old English poem I found tucked away in a book at my Uncle’s cabin one year, and it has stayed with me ever since. It’s called “The Hound of Heaven.” God is the hound of heaven, like a relentless dog that pursues and pursues and pursues us, across ages and spaces. We don’t have to run to God. I really believe that. We just have to stop running away and let him catch us.

This hound of heaven picture is what I know to be true of God — that he not just won’t run out on me… he’ll run after me. And he’ll never stop. His love is ferocious in it’s pursuit, relentless in it’s goal, and gentle in it’s touch.  That’s what I know of God.

His love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.

And that calms my fears more than anything else ever could.

 

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 22nd, 2014 | Author:

Recently I was with a group of people and we were talking about what was going on in our lives and the topic turned to one of the girls there who is leaving her job soon. “I know it may be bad,” she relayed, “but I’m really giving it my all now. I want them to miss me when I’m gone. I want them to be sad to see me go, and not think ‘Oh, she was leaving, that’s why she was slacking those last few months.'”

Other people in the room chimed in saying they felt the same way. It was quickly clear the desire to be hard to replace seems to be almost innate. Except in me.

For a long time now, I’ve been trying to make myself replaceable. And it’s just been the last few months that I’ve really realized how this mindset has sunk in to most every area of my life.

I create “truck binders” for projects I work on so that if I were run over by a truck, someone could use the binder to carry forward. I delegate tasks and responsibilities to teams and train others how to do my job in my absence. I plan ahead and I make notes about what I do and how I do it. And I’ve realized, I keep people at bay in my life, and I try to get them close to other people who could fill my role when I leave.

When I left for college, I didn’t want to be replaceable, because I wanted to stay in my hometown. But because I left, I wanted to see my people taken care of. I was happy for her when my best friend began to be good friends with another girl who is her best friend to this day. I was glad that someone could fill the hole I left in the day to day life of my friend. I’ve been tentative to sign art pieces that I make for people as gifts, because I want them to be able to enjoy the art piece regardless of what happens to me. I don’t want them to have to remember me with each glance at it if they don’t want to. (I know this is poor logic, and not healthy, but it’s the truth.)

In my self-realization that I do this, this is what I’ve found.

***

I mentioned in my “write your own eulogy” post that I always thought I would die young.  As early as I can remember I just assumed this to be true. I told this to my friend recently and she said, “see… that’s why I’m scared to have kids. How do you know that your toddler is thinking about death? That scares the crap out of me.”

And really, she’s right. How would anyone have known? I never bothered to mention it. I just thought it was a given. I was extremely happy and adventurous and risk-taking. I was well socialized. I connected well with people of all ages. But I’ve always thought my time was limited.

The only thing I can think of that I believe made me assume my life would be short was this: My mom always used to tell us stories about her and her brothers as they were growing up. One of my uncles was older than her and one younger. But the thing was, in the story I had two uncles, but in life I only had one. Her younger brother had died before I was born.  I only knew him through the stories.

And somehow I think that my little mind drew a lot of similarities between myself and my Uncle Randy. We were both the youngest of 3 kids. We both had allergies. We both got manipulated by older siblings, but still loved them. Just typical stuff. But somehow I believed that my fate would be like his – I thought my life would be short. So I lived that way.

When I was in 6th grade I started to have medical problems. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong but I underwent test after test, with no results giving an answer. I had my blood drawn weekly for a while for these. I saw specialists. I missed lots of school. I was just waiting for what I knew would eventually be a fatal diagnosis. I could manage life 5 or 6 days out of 7, but I missed at least one day of school a week. But  on my good days I would play hard, laugh hard, study hard, and be who I wanted to be. I knew time was short.

And then, when my medical problems were still going on, but were becoming less demanding, and almost seemed like they were fading, my older sister died suddenly.

I felt like the universe had gotten confused. She was supposed to live. My brother too. They were supposed to live long, full lives. They were both so accomplished. So smart. Smarter and better than me, I always thought. It was supposed to be me. I had always known. It was supposed to be me who died young. I was supposed to live an entertaining full, short, life that she could tell stories about to her children. It wasn’t supposed to be her.

I was ready for the fatal diagnosis. I wasn’t ready for the fatal call of someone else’s death, though. Cancer, some weird disease, “You have 3 days to live,” I could’ve handled. But watching the life go out of my brilliant, vibrant, feisty, 21-year-old sister who had so much promise for the world and for the people around her — that ruined everything I thought I knew about how to live well and die well.

This death was not like the movies, with time to prepare and goodbyes properly said. It was her birthday 3 days before. We didn’t get to say goodbye. She didn’t get to graduate college one month later like she was ready to. She didn’t get to celebrate her one year wedding anniversary that summer on the cruise they had already bought. There were no tears of parting on her part. It just ended. Like a book that just stops a quarter of the way in, leaving you hanging, knowing there was supposed to be more.

My poetic notions of short life well lived were smashed. This was not like that. This was a life-halting, heart-breaking, “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO F***ING DO NOW!?!?” chapter. It was not poetic. It was horrendous.

origin_2594318333photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

And what had once been a decision to live fully so that I’d soak up all opportunity and so that people could remember me in their stories they told, turned to a desire to minimize collateral damage. I know the pain and ache of someone dying. And I, still subconsciously believing I would die young, was determined to lessen that pain for others as much as possible.

I wanted to be replaceable. I wanted to be able to die and have everything go on without me as smoothly as possible.

I wanted to prepare people for my death — living like a cancer patient without the diagnosis. I wanted people to know how I loved them, cared for them, and that they didn’t really need me. That there were others who could fill my slot in the program of their life.

The first time I talked about “when I die…” to my friend Kate, we were roommates in college. I don’t even know what I said, but probably something flippant like “when I die, I want to have “Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta” on my tombstone. I didn’t know it then (this is just how I talk and think), but she got really angry with me for thinking about death, and talking about it so frankly.

A couple of years later, I had just attended yet another funeral for someone I respected, and I wrote an email to Kate. I told her if I died I wanted her to speak at my funeral, and there were certain things I wanted her to mention: One, namely, is one time that I had the best parallel parking job in the world, on the first try, in golden gate park in San Francisco, and we took a picture that she made me promise I wouldn’t use to brag. I asked her to show said bragging picture, because hey, I’d be dead.

It was in her gracious response that she’d let me in on her reaction to my candor about death. She understands now that it’s part of how I live, but I had never known before that it had angered her and made her sad when I brought it up the first time. Which is understandable. There I was, getting to be great friends with someone, and simultaneously trying to keep a distance, to prepare her for life without me, to make myself replaceable. I believe I may well live a long life now. But I’m still scared of hurting people. I’m scared of leaving a wake of pain should the unexpected happen.

But the thing is, I’m not replaceable. I work hard to make sure I am replaceable in my jobs and roles in life. Because those things you can be replaced in. But I cannot be replaced as a person. Nobody can. I’ve believed that about others, but I thought I could be the exception if I tried hard enough.

I’ve had other people who have stepped in and acted as big sisters for me. But nobody will ever be Julie. And the fact is, if her death had happened like the movies, and we’d had our time for goodbyes, it wouldn’t have made it hurt less. It wouldn’t have lessened the loss. She would still be gone, and still be irreplaceable.

Positions are replaceable. People are not.

So I am working on trying to let myself see this and embrace it in the ways I relate to the people in my life. Because I’ve realized in my efforts to minimize pain for people at my potential leaving, I’m actually stunting the joy of relationships for myself and for them.

I want to step into the fullness of who I am and embrace the value of that woman. And as much as I don’t want people to bear the hurt of loss that I so well know, it’s a lie to go on believing that I can prevent that.  Loss and pain are certainties in life. I’d like to focus from now on at caring, loving, giving, and being the kind of friend that I would never want to see leave my own life.

And it’s OK if you miss me when I’m gone.

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

storyofjoblog@gmail.com