A Better New Year in 10 (somewhat manageable) Steps

2019

By: Jana Greene

Well, well, well….

It seems I just got used to writing “2018” on my checks (yes…I still use checks) when BOOM! – it’s a brand new year.

I’ve never been big on New Year’s Eve, even when I was a drinker. It was not my style to do the party circuit; I was more of a “lock myself in the bathroom with a whole bottle of wine” person.

Alas, it has been 18 incredible years since I’ve had a drop of alcohol. And that, my friends, is a miracle of such magnitude that Moses parting the Red Seas pales in comparison. I had all the emotional fixins’ to prime me for alcoholism, and an alcoholic I was.

Am, actually. I won’t graduate from alcoholism.

This year, I will try to intentionally pour emotional resources and time into my recovery. Meetings with my 12 Step tribe and self-care strategies will become more of a priority; one that I have not been as vigilant about in 2018 (and struggled as a result.)

I would very much like to say – or at least pretend – that I am past it now, the drinking – and that I am a wise and sage maven of serenity. That I have my shit together and have written books about ultra spirituality, and meditate regularly. Although I HAVE written books, I assure you that I don’t have all the answers and never will, and have exactly 0% of my shit together.

I CAN however make some realistic resolutions (a.k.a. “goals”) and so can you. These are just a bunch of ideas for actions that are both little and incidental, and huge and profound. They are things that I can control – unlike every other dang thing in the universe, which is chaotic and unresponsive to my control-freakness (damn it.)

In 2019…

1. I will give myself credit for doing things right.

In today’s world, the focus is on what we DON’T accomplish, and that kind of self-flagellation is right up my alley. As a person with chronic and painful health conditions, I never get nearly enough done.

At the end of the day, I may have cleaned two rooms, which means I will obsess about the other six that didn’t get touched and look like three cats have thrown cat parties in them. Because we have three cats, and every day is literally a party for them.

It is not, however, a party for ME most days. Most days, I have a certain amount of physical and mental energy and have to ration it out little by little, prioritizing while knowing full well the things low on the list WILL NOT GET DONE.

Here’s to a kinder, gentler to-do list in 2019. An era in which I ask myself if I completed a task, and focus on THAT.

Did I put on pants today? BRAVO, world-slayer!

2. I will be less harsh on (physical) self.

Hooooboy. This year, I turn 50 years old, and Father time is walking across my face. It would appear that he is wearing soccer cleats whilst doing so! Two-thousand-eighteen has been the Year of the Carb. And the funny thing is that last year, NO CARBS was #1 on my internal resolution list. Do anything, Jana….EXCEPT CONSUME CARBS. As Dr. Phil would say, “How is that working for me?”

I’ll tell you how. I gained 20 pounds in a year. The reasons why are legion – lowered mobility, pain when moving, and FOOD. Because I did the exact thing I promised myself I would not do, and I did it TO THE EXTREME.

I hate mirrors; hate them. And that’s kind of a shame because I am now as young as I will ever be, and my husband is not complaining about the way I look. I don’t want to be that woman that fights ageing with panic, honing in on every new wrinkle or fat cell.

Life is simply too short.

3. I will put away the bat in general.

In recovery circles, there is an expression: “It’s time to put away the bat.” The phrase gives a nice visual representing the way we beat ourselves up. Not just about missing goals or gaining weight, but about how we stack up in comparison to other people. We beat ourselves to a bloody pulp with a virtual baseball bat because others clearly are “getting it,” and we perceive that we are not.

Comparison is a thief of joy! I’m going to work on letting it go, and putting away the weapon of emotional torture.

4. I will try to say “thank you.” Just “thank you.”

If you tell me that you like my blouse, it’s likely that I will vomit forth details about it, such as how I got it at Goodwill and it was only $3.99, and it had a frayed hem but I fixed it, and unfortunately I had to go up two sizes.

If you tell me you enjoy my blog, it is my instinct to convince you why you really shouldn’t. I don’t know why, but this kind of minimizing can be cured with two simple words: THANK YOU.

Just “thank you.” And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

5. I will catch myself when I’m exhibiting co-dependent behavior and lovingly steer myself from it without chiding.

I have no right to be happy if you’re not happy. Crazy, right? But this principal manifests all the time. Especially with my children and husband. When they are sad / mad, I am sad / mad. Because maybe I can “fix” their problems if I get sad, too. Or something like that.

I think it has something to do with being an empath. We absorb the moods of others, particularly of those we love deeply. It literally feels frivolous to be happy if someone I love is not.

This has got to go.

Hey, I’m really sorry your horribly grouchy – that sucks. But I’m TEFLON, man. You can try to rub your grumpiness on me, but I’m not owning it.

That’s the kind of thought process I aspire to. And speaking of thought processes…

I will make time for therapy!

6. I will make time for laughter.

God, I love the internet, unapologetically and 100%. And do you know why? Partially because if I’m not up to wearing pants, I can still communicate with friends on Facebook. Just kidding (not really!)

But my favorite thing about the interwebs are memes. I’m a grown-ass woman and I love me some cats pictured with snarky comments and eat-shit-and-die expressions. I was embarrassed about this for a long time, until I starting posting these squares of silliness to my social media page, and other people started laughing, too.

OMG, if there is anything better than heart-lightening laughter, it’s making OTHER PEOPLE laugh!

Oh, and videos. Ditto prior embarrassment. But then my kids introduced me to ‘Vines’ and life has never been the same.

There are days – especially when I’m struggling and depressed – YouTube videos of Jon Crist have saved my sanity.  If you’ve never watched “Juggling the Jenkins” by YouTuber Tiffany Jenkins, you are missing out big-time.

7. I will make time for music.

MUSIC. IS. LIFE. And I don’t listen to enough of it.

My musical tastes range from Bach and Beethoven to “please don’t judge me.” I love Al Green. And Eminem. And Don Williams. And The Black Crows. I listened to very little music in 2018, on account of I was so seldom “in the mood,” which is a damn shame, because music is a mood changer.

I’m not sure if this is it’s own distinct mental illness, or just a sub-group of my several, but I can almost SEE music. Playing a song sweeps me up and carries me off. Music is color and light and carbonated joy.

Music is therapy. Need a good cry but can’t get it started? Coldplay’s “Parachutes” album. Just do it, and for extra expedition, lean your head against a window whilst it’s gently raining outside or something. You will cry, and it will be cleansing.  Earth, Wind, and Fire cannot be usurped when it comes to getting jiggy with it. It is literally impossible to wallow in the funk if the funkiest tunes are blasting. Worship music can shift the whole atmosphere, and I’m not exaggerating. It can pour a salve into all the hurting places in my soul.

Krunk that stuff UP.

8.  I will try to do 10 kind things for other people each week without telling a soul.

I used to write gratitude cards every single week. Just little note cards sent to friends to remind them specifically why they are so incredibly fabulous. I don’t do that anymore. At some point, it became more of a chore than a kind endeavor, and I hate that.

May 2019 be a year of less selfishness and more kindness. Ten itty-bitty things can make a huge difference.

Holding a door open. Paying for the coffee of the person behind me in the drive through. Phone calls or texts to say I’m thinking of you and I love you.

It’s something I learned in The Rooms (a recovery term for 12 Step groups): You keep it by giving it away. Your hope, experience, strength.

One of the kindest things we can do for someone is express gratitude. We each have something within us that not a single other person on earth can give. I generally do much better if I express gratitude with kind words to others.

I want to work on that.

9. I will invest in my relationships like there’s no tomorrow. Because there may not be.

We once attended a church where the co-pastor was an elderly gentleman. He was a real salt and light kinda guy….always smiling, quick with a joke, and charmingly honest. For instance, he stood at the pulpit one Sunday morning and opened with this zinger: “We’re all terminal.”

He was right.

Notice how time goes much faster with every passing year? I’m going to try to savor it instead of wishing it away. And to savor it, I need relationships. Not acquaintances; real, rich, messy, intimate bondings.

And no….not that kind of intimate! The kind where you bring your raw, honest self in communion to another human being, (and they bring their real, honest self to you,) and you appreciate them for exactly who they are. God created each of our friends with the intention we invest in that person. He has had each friendship in mind since before we were born!

Enjoy it, he is saying. You aren’t meant to do this hard life alone.

10.  I will keep an open(ish) mind.

At some point, Christians have given all our mysticism over to the pagans and such. Please trust me when I say that there is NOTHING more mystical than the Triune God.

It’s the trippiest, man. That a Cosmic Creator inhabited flesh to draw us near. DUDE.

Considering alternate points-of-view is not turning my back on Jesus. Pretty much everyone has something to say worth hearing. Recently, I’ve been reading “There’s Nothing Wrong With You” by Cheri Huber. It is positively incredible.

It is not a “Christian” book. I’m pretty sure she is not a “Christian” writer. But she has some very Jesusy things to say.

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”
And…
“All of life’s conflicts are between letting go or holding on, opening into the present or clinging to the past, expansion or contraction.”
Those are Biblical principals.
In 2019, I will work on my spiritual expansion and contractions. I will adsorb light and love, and embrace who Jesus Himself is, and not what 2,000 years of man-made doctrine and musing has made him.
LOVE.
And, HEY…if you read my blog?
THANK YOU.
Dear readers, I wish you the very best in this new year.
May you laugh, and dance, and give yourself credit for the things you do right.
I hope you be happy, even if no one around you is happy.

Hold on to your joy!  It’s yours!

I pray that in 2019, you will put the bat away, and see yourself for
who and Whose you are – perfectly BEAUTIFUL.
May you have a party in your soul the likes of which my three cats enjoy
on the daily. They have not a worry in the world.
And most of all, I pray that God blesses you in overflowing measure
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Music from Remnants – a Father / Daughter Story

 

 

By: Jana Greene

This evening, before my husband came home from work, I was making a casserole and listening to Jesus music. Let me be perfectly clear here – my musical tastes span nearly EVERY genre.

I don’t ONLY listen to Christian music.

I love Eminem.

Jack White is boss.

I also like some of the Jesus-y music, too.

I like to think that deep, deep down, under the smile lines and cellulite and freckles, I have an inner groupie who is wild and free and would love to follow The Grateful Dead all over Creation or something. But then, reality.

Always reality, right? Such a joy suck.

I love music…all kinds. I see God everywhere and in everyone. In the arts. In the science.  I don’t like using the terms ‘secular’ and ‘religious.’ Honestly, both of those words stick in my throat. Ick! Who the heck do we think we are to deem each person, place, or thing either ‘secular’ or ‘religious.’

The God of the Universe need is not subject to our licensing laws. O.M.G.

Anyway…the chicken. Yes. As I’m putting the casserole into the oven, Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father” comes on Pandora and I stop dead in my tracks. I don’t know what it is about this song – it’s catchy and repetitive, as are many, many contemporary Christian tunes. But Good, Good Father?  It is the Official Anthem for Those Afflicted with Daddy Issues.

The lyrics, oh…the lyrics slay me! Tears spring up every time, every single time – and instantly. I am silly in my oven mitts, dancing circles around my kitchen by myself, but I don’t care. The song has so much depth to me.

Growing up, I didn’t know my dad. As a matter of fact, I’d met him only a smattering of times, even though we lived in the same town. He was a musician – a guitar player. I think my surprise birth threw him a curve ball. He was in the band that became ZZ Top, you see. He could have been a contender, as they say. He was a 19 year old kid when he became a father.

His first love was always music. He was obsessed with it. All my life, I’ve never allowed myself to consider that I got my adoration and encyclopedic knowledge of bands and music from my daddy. Couldn’t be. He was simply not around to influence me. But ah – in the nature vs. nurture debate,, nature is stronger than you’d think. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

But just two years ago – nearly 40 years from the last time I’d seen him – I reconnected with my biological father. We enjoyed Mexican food with my half-sister when I visited Houston.

It should have been awkward, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t awkward at all.

These people, my people!  OMG, I HAVE PEOPLE!

I fell in love with my sister anew, too. At the table, I marveled that she, my father and I all  have the same hands! It tickled me to no end to compare them. Puzzle pieces snapping into place neatly and flush with every other piece. Why did I ever doubt God would allow such a reunion in my lifetime?

Ah, I remember. Because I was afraid to be disappointed. That old chestnut.

Fear is a terrible bully, squashing hope to a pulp. Pulpy hope is worse than no hope at all.

Somehow, all through the years,  God had caulked all of my cracks with grace, and I got to hold my earthly father’s hand, so similar to my own.  I think there was a Mariachi band there, but that may just be fantasy on my part. It was a super festive evening.

One dad, two daughters. Just for that night. No pie-in-the-sky expectations of making up for lost time, but instead a tender rekindling of hope for the future.

I had the honor of telling my father that I loved him, and I MEANT it. I also had the honor of telling him that I forgive him, because my Jesus extends so much grace and forgiveness and love my way. I got to call my father “Dad” for the first time in my entire life. I had always called him by his first name “Bob” even as an infant. And you know what? My Daddy says he loves me, too.

And we’re cool, my dad and I.

I’m typing this through literal tears right now. Not because everything wrapped up in a nice, tidy package and VOILA! INSTANT RELATIONSHIP! That’s not what happened at all.

I’m crying because my good, good Heavenly Daddy saw fit to bring some family remnants together. And because my Abba was with me all along, delighting in me, his daughter so wild and free.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like

But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only you provide
‘Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word.

My love of music? I got it from my dad.

Reality, RIGHT?

Sometimes it’s so sweet.

Here’s the audio for Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father” Enjoy!

CLICK HERE

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What David Bowie Taught Me about Living Authentically

What David Bowie Taught Me about Living Authentically

david_bowie_07

I purposefully took my time to write this piece, as I wanted desperately to do the memory of David Bowie justice. Thanks for the memories, O Great One. You will be missed.

By: Jana Greene

In the summer of my 13th year, I fell in love. And the man I fell in love with passed away last week.

I fell HARD, much like the object of my desire who fell to Earth, when I first came to love his music, and again when I found out he passed away.

As a young girl, I’d  heard Space Oddity play on the radio and was completely transfixed. What did I just HEAR? I’d always loved music, but this…this? This was another thing altogether.

From then forward, I was obsessed. Everything Bowie wrote or sang, every cameo he made in a film, every poster featuring his amazing face from obscure and punk-ish Houston area shops, every book written about him – I couldn’t get enough. My bedroom walls were plastered with his beautiful visage.

I was David Bowie two Halloweens in a row. First, Ziggy – and then as Bowie from his Serious Moonlight tour. In retrospect, it seems a little creepy but I promise you, my intentions were purely meant to be the sincerest form of flattery. (There is photo evidence of the latter picture. I think I was 16 years old.)

bowie

By the time Bowie enjoyed another wave of popularity even among my peers with “Let’s Dance” in 1984, I resented that other people were just now appreciating him.

SO mainstream, ya’ll. Have you even HEARD of Ziggy Stardust?

Still, I played the new album into the ground in my Sony Walkman cassette tape player – always with ear phones in so that I could enjoy it as loud as I pleased and as privately as I desired. Rewind, and play again. And again.

When I went to see Bowie in concert on his Serious Moonlight Tour, I’d spent hours fantasizing about meeting him, and – possibly one day, you know, marrying him and enjoying a lifetime soaking of his supreme and inconceivable amazingness. Pretty standard teenage girl stuff, but it didn’t feel contrived.

It felt possible, silly as it seems now.

Bowie made me believe anything was possible.

I would try to get my friends to listen (especially to the old stuff) and they would be like, “Yeah, he’s okay.” And I was like, “ARE YOU NOT HEARING WHAT I AM HEARING!?”

So, when I was growing up, everyone was all Madonna and Duran Duran and Rick Springfield and Pat Benetar, and I’m not dissing any of those artists.

But Bowie? He belonged to ME.

Maybe he belonged to you, too.

So I hope that you understand that –  as I write this post – I am considering the David Bowie who belonged to my heart. He will always be THAT Bowie to me. When I was going through a very tumultuous family life, he was a constant and his music was my therapy.

He taught me so much in those tender years, and I wouldn’t have grown up the same person without those lessons:

He made it okay to feel misunderstood.

The world is not going to understand you. You are entirely too unique to be fully understood, and thank God for that. Bowie did music like nobody had ever done before. NOBODY. He didn’t really care about topping charts or being popular. It was all about the music, man.

Unconventional beauty is FAR superior to conventional beauty.

Pale and pasty? The Thin White Duke fit the bill. His teeth weren’t great. His nose was crooked. But no matter how many ch-ch-ch-changes his persona underwent, I sincerely thought he was the most beautiful man on the planet. You go on ahead and wear makeup and spike your hair and shave off your eyebrows, and dress in an unforgiving leotard, you cool, confident cat, you.

Hunky is B-O-R-I-N-G. Keep your Tiger Beat Magazine hearthrobs. YAWN.

(Oh, and his eyes were two different colors, too. Did I mention that?  BRB…SWOONING.)

Reinventing yourself is perfectly acceptable.

Do it unapologetically, or not at all.

Treat everyone like a rock star.

One of the things that stuck out to me is that he treated reporters interviewing him with the same respect as he might the biggest names in the music industry. He was by almost all accounts, just a really kind person.

A gentleman’s gentleman. Equally at ease performing “Dancing in the Streets” with the venerable Mick Jagger as singing a duet of “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby.

Be refreshingly positive whenever possible:

“Don’t let me hear you say, life’s taking you nowhere.”  (Golden Years)

Whether I like it or not,  Bowie planted a seed of compassion in my spirit for the androgynous, the sexually confused, the gender benders.

I still don’t really understand transsexualism, etc. I’m just being honest, it’s just not my struggle. But Bowie showed me that it’s essential to love people different than ourselves. His sexuality, which seemed to morph as often as his persona, just simply was NOT THE MAIN THING about Bowie. He was so much more. I still carry that seed of compassion, and I’m grateful that he taught me how to germinate it.
You can love, admire and respect people who you don’t understand AT ALL. It’s just that simple.

Don’t let anyone put you in a box.

Bowie Culture is that it’s okay to reinvent yourself 1,000 times. You don’t owe anyone an explanation either. Switch it up and let that freak flag fly.

Be the best WHATEVER you authentically ARE.

“And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their world, they’re immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” (Changes)

A better set of lyrics about the angst of youth I’ve never seen, and likely never will.

It’s okay to be a little weird:

Did you ever feel like the weirdest kid on the block growing up? Me too. Bowie taught me that we’re all weird in our own ways. And that it’s pretty wonderful, actually.

Addiction is overcome-able.

This lesson would come later in my life and in his. Like a good friend that you keep up through the grapevine, I’d heard that he’d conquered an addiction to cocaine in the ’80s. While not surprising that a great talent did battle with a drug (creative people often do) he inspired to to believe I may conqueror my own alcoholism one day. And I did. I’ll always appreciate his candor in owning his disease and strength in overcoming it.

And lastly, being a spiritual Seeker is an admirable pursuit.

Although Bowie experimented with all kinds of spirituality, it seems he camped out in Christianity, which gives me so much happiness, being of the faith myself. I can’t wait to see him in The Kingdom, maybe share a cup o’ Joe with him, and tell him what a difference he made in the life of one little girl.

CLICK HERE FOR STORY ABOUT BOWIE’S SPIRITUALITY

Rest in Peace, David Bowie.
May we remember that we can be heroes, just for one day.
Why can’t we give love
Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
and love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure”
–  “Under Pressure” (compilation with the great Freddy Mercury)

 

Sinner’s Creed – Review of a Rock-and-Roll Frontman’s Redemption Tale

Sometimes happiness comes wrapped in an Amazon box!

Hello, dear readers.

I hope that you will follow this link to read my blog in Wilmington FAVS to check out my book review of Scott Stapp’s “Sinner’s Creed”, which came out October 2nd. The book combines three of my favorite things – faith, music and recovery – and if you are interested in any of those elements, I highly recommend it! God bless you and yours 🙂

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/sinners-creed-scott-stapps-rock-roll-and-redemption

To Carry a Tune (or: There’s a hole in my bucket)

Beach Buckets (photo by Jana Greene)

By: Jana Greene

The speakers on stage – as big as house doors – pump the baseline so hard that I can feel my ribs vibrate with each beat.  Always a sucker for percussion, I am bouncing slightly with each perfect, deliberate fall of the sticks upon snare. Melodies, streaming from the lead guitar, make me move against my will in the way that only a middle-aged white woman can manage; with certain awkwardness, but I don’t care. Move anyway, my spirit tells me, and I obey because sometimes my spirit knows what to do.

And then she sings.

Her voice, raised in worship, is flawless. It rises and falls in perfect synchronization with the music and it doesn’t struggle with highs or lows but surfs on the notes, catching the perfect wave every time.  She is worshiping God with all she has and I know that He is pleased.  He created her ability to sing with seeming ease and share it with the world, and she has mesmerized us all with her gifts.  With her obedience.

My voice has the potential to traumatize…not mesmerize.

When I get to heaven, I want to be able to sing like she does. Or like Queen Latifa.  Or maybe Joss Stone.  But who knows? Perhaps  by that time I’ll be at enough peace with my own gifts to keep from envying those of others. I’m not proud that I sometimes covet the talents of others, but hat covetness burrows into my mind  before I have the chance to rebuke it at times.

Music is one of my very favorite ways in which God spoils us all. It was created by Him to give us another tool of praise  (and sometimes just to get jiggy with it) and I wish I was as good at making it as I am to listening to it. I know God doesn’t mind that I sing off-key, but I do.

Sharing our talents can be a daunting task. We don’t get to choose the gifts we are given, but we do have the choice to use what we have – or to keep it to ourselves.  I know he truth: that the Singer at my church works on her music often, that her synchronization is perfected not only by gifting, but by practice. Effortlessness is not what she strives for; worship is.  Each of the musicians in our church’s worship band has mind-blowing talent, which they each use every week to bless others.  After Sunday services,  I have to fight the urge to corner each of them and say, “Do you have any IDEA how AMAZING you are?”  (I don’t want to be creepy about it.  Just appreciative.)

We all have different gifting, different processes. God is pleased when we use our talents to bring other hurting people to Him, no matter what that talent may be.  And those “what if’s”?

What if I use my talents and fail, and make a fool of myself?

What if it’s just too hard?

Move anyway, my spirit tells me.  You’ve been a fool for much lesser things. And I listen.

Because even though I cannot carry a tune in a bucket, sometimes my spirit really does know what to do.