JohannaOlson

Till Death

Aug
09

I have so many choices in a day – this one not unlike the others.

I can choose to engage; choose to care; choose to hate; choose my words. I could choose to wait… to use time. But for me, is time dispersing the intensity of emotions or multiplying them? Am I just giving more of me to a bathtub thick with the blackest of feelings? 

I noticed today that my responses have changed. They are quick and juvenile.. “you suck”, “are you too dumb?”Given extra thought, cooler emotions, I couldn’t say I’d choose these words. But I was too hot and too impatient for flexibility. Instead, I had feelings… frustrations. And most frustrating is that once the conversation fell to those places, that’s where it stayed. No one took it anywhere else. We just left that relational pathway intact – to be returned to, paved & inhabited.  

Sometimes Solace

Jul
26

Sometimes my very own philosophies contradict one another. In fact, often.

I find solace in the fact that God is in control, meaning that I am off the hook of major personal & universal responsibility. Then a week later, I find solace in the fact that I am not a limb-less minion helplessly rolling past injustice or beauty. I realize that I am in collaboration with the one who created the universe and this creator asked me to do my part. To be hands, not just a mind. Then other times (many times) the notion of being God’s hands makes me wedge myself under the living room coffee table with my hands curled tight into my body and smooshed against the floor.

Sometimes I hate that I do this. Other times, I resent the very notion that I should have to get my hands dirty in someone else’s work. Then I forget about it for a while and let 7 seasons of a Netflix series satiate my eyes.

Eventually, the heart rate picks up and I am back within the tension of the human experience. I am kind of a physical being, kind of a spiritual being, kind of at the mercy of the Universe, kind of creating my own universe. Here I sit, jumping around it all. Though outwardly, I’m merely staring at a cute pair of cut off pants on the person ordering coffee. My mind moves to the space under the coffee table. I think I missed the part where I dirty my hands for justice.

More time passes.

The Silence of Rotting Food

Jul
13

Last week, we came home from a short trip away to discover that our refrigerator door had been left open. I’m going to avoid the opportunity to highlight potentially guilty parties or the “how could you not?” rhetorical (blaming) ‘questions’ and just say that it sucked. Obviously. But especially because I tend to keep a very well stocked fridge. Needless to say, the garbage bin that held our warm, rotten food was very full and I’m surprised I did not shed tears at the sight of it.

The positive side of this is that it remotivated some food planning in our household. In part, because there was a large number of condiments (and other things) that I held on to, but was not sure if I should have held on to, so I figured we better use them up very quickly just in case.

This concept – not wasting food; recycling questionable/expired foods – is the main cooking legacy my mother has passed on to me. And I say that with no hidden criticism. Unbeknownst to me, we probably ate the same recycled meal for a week at a time and no one ever realized (the roast that was the roast that became the sandwiches that became the stroganoff that became part of a meatloaf/quiche/loaf of bread or frozen for next year’s Christmas dinner). This instilled in me a great amount of (irrational) confidence as a cook and also zero regard for how things are supposed to be prepared or the ingredients that are normally supposed to be in certain things. Yet, as someone who is generally reluctant to do things she may fail at, this parenting model allowed me to skip over some kitchen-hesitation that I otherwise may have had.

So, I’d like to inspire you by documenting the recycled meals we made out of a fridge full of warm condiments:

  1. Quiche! With sour milk & 1/2 dozen eggs that were extra cooked to extra kill that Salmonella potential!
  2. Pizza! With wilted greens, naturally fermented crust (read: expired yogurt) and a trimmed back block of cheese.
  3. Curry! With boxed coconut cream, remaining expired yogurt, (unaffected) rice, and a myriad of vegetables in a myriad of life stages. Extra boil, extra simmer.

Anyone for supper?

 

A Note on Anxiety

Nov
01

Published in The Courageous Cure by Dr. Alana Berg

For years I thought that moments of anxiety were evidence of my ungodliness; areas of my life un-submitted or unconverted to Christ. Each moment of a sped up heart, a sweaty palm, or a racing train of thought was accelerated by the fear that its presence meant a great darkness in me.

Faith. I must feel faith, I tell myself. Faith, faith, faith, faith, FAITH.

Then I’d fail, fail, fail, fail.

In Philippians, Paul says “be anxious for nothing”. Initially, I read this as a reprimanding command against anxiety. A finger waving in front of my nose, telling me that I have not trusted God in the way I should have, But in a moment of divine grace and revelation, God revealed to me that his words are actually ones of comfort. Instead of reprimanding readers for feeling moments of anxiety, he is meeting them in the midst of their struggle but telling them that they need not stay in a place of anxiety; he made the way out. His perfect love expels all fear. His strength works best in our weakness.

But still. Those monsters poke their heads out from under the bed. As much as you know that God brings peace, sometimes it seems hard to shake the gripping moments of anxiety, let alone the existence of anxious moments. When your mind is consumed by anxious thoughts, it seems antithetical and inauthentic to all of a sudden start telling yourself positive/faith-filled things. We’re like hamsters committed to running our wheels to the end of their course, neglecting to step back and realize that the wheel never ends. How do we learn to walk in the things of God when it all seems theoretical, but we need practical? Or we at least need an excuse to cover our heads with the duvet and try again tomorrow.

Even though we invite Christ to dwell inside of us, to consume us, to make His words our words and His hands, our hands… we will never fully become Christ because we are us. We are the human conduits of the spirit of God. We are human beings in which the spirit of God dwells. But we’re still human beings. And our relationship with God is still a relationship. It’s part him and part us. Part of our Christian journey is learning to be transformed by the God in us and then allowing that God in us to seep out of us and transform the world around us.

The act of salvation is the process of being reborn into a new creation and then handed some glorious new threads. Though the slate is clean, the eyes are unveiled, and the mind is renewed, we have to continue to own our new digs. There will always be taunting voices and seductive lies that want to redefine who we are; people and situations that want to tell us that the worst is about to happen and we are not brave enough to handle it. And sometimes we’ll want to invite those voices in and ask them to have tea with us. This is why God reminds us that we have been given a “spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). It’s like he’s telling us he understands how we feel, but is reaffirming that fear is not from him.

In fact, the Bible tells us that when we decide to journey with Christ, He enters our lives and begins to dwell within us. Ephesians tells us we can be filled with the spirit. Proverbs says that out of the overflow of our hearts, comes the words of our mouths.

Despite the circumstances that surround us, the Bible indicates that we are a mine of supernatural power. We need not go any further than our own spirits to stir up words of faith and encouragement in order to expel the surrounding atmosphere of anxiety.

I’ve realized that the important thing is not getting it right every time. The important thing is journeying closer to the equator of God within my spirit. To not fight my internal battles with topical ointments, but to allow the spirit of God to bubble up inside of me and transform my position against the world around me. I know God’s not thinking less of me because of anxious moments, but I also know that he loves me enough to have already offered to carry the weights that are too big for me to carry.

God’s not upset with me for feeling anxious and he’s not upset with you either. But do yourself a favour and don’t surrender to your anxiety; surrender to the one who can bring peace, despite your circumstances. Or at least try again tomorrow.

Competition Cement

Oct
20

Somewhere in the deep end of my mental processes is a cement layer devotion to competition. Only on top of it can any other currents flow. I don’t know when I laid it or how I willed it to be done, but I am beginning to recognize its solid presence and its interference. It has imprints of insecurity and fear where the “do not walk” sign was obviously ignored and some slight cracks from nights of stomping. I vaguely remember the battles that danced around it and gave it its character. It holds the weight of my steps, so I can’t hate it. Yet, I’m starting to notice it hasn’t taken me anywhere. I find myself sitting on its curbside, a bit stuck. As if its cement never quite dried and once I sat, I’ve never been able to move.

Press Play

Mar
31

Originally posted over here.

Since the release of my album, I have had so many people congratulate me and say nice things about how proud they are of me or simply acknowledging the amount of work involved in releasing an album. It’s such a funny feeling to have that conversation over and over again because it’s not like we’re sitting around a table, chatting about a meal that we’ve all just enjoyed. Having people engage with my album is not very tangible in the sense that I am not a part of their experience listening to my album. When they chat with me about it, it’s not while either of us are listening to the music or experiencing its effects or even staring at the .wav files. It’s such a strange, disconnected experience. When referring to “my album” it’s like referring to some hypothetical, cloud of a product that’s somewhere, ambiguously out there. Making it seem as if people are congratulating me on an idea that has no matter and fills no firm place in time.

The strangest feeling is the sense of it being a “finished” but “just begun” kind of product. I’m done my work – it’s out there, ready for listeners to consume, But I cannot say when or if anyone will consume it, so it’s still very much in process in terms of its ability to influence or have value to anyone but myself.

No physical CD copies exist, I have received no payment for any downloads, no iTunes ratings, no Grammy, no record deal, no Q interview. It has yet to produce fruit. So far, it just existsAt the end of an iTunes search. Attached to a handwritten download code. Paused in time, waiting for someone to hit that little play button on their keyboard and bring it into reality… waiting for someone to give it space and time.

I can feel, at the back of my little creative heart, a rising plea that someone would just: “let me out; allow me to exist”.

And it’s got me thinking about when things come alive. What else is standing still in the universe, waiting for someone to press play?

Fermentation . 1

Oct
30

Currently, on my counter, I have some lacto-fermented soda doing its thing, some bubbling sourdough culture, and some souring kefir.

All of these products went into their respective glass jars as one creation and will come out as something completely different and exactly the same.

I love that.

I like to be reminded that there is life in inconspicuous places.

Chasing the Cloud

Oct
22

I’m afraid of losing you.
I’m afraid of how good it feels when you’re around and how hard it is to find you.
I’m afraid that you’ll leave again and I’ll labour with hands and words and reddened faces to find you;
to speak to you;
to manufacture you,
but you won’t be there.
I’ve been trying to find breath for so long.

Trying to breathe deeply for so long, but the air keeps getting stuck in that part of my chest right before it hits the throat.
It’s too far down to pull out. My mind wants to think it away.
To create something else so I won’t be disappointed.
I can’t though. I’m disappointed without. I can’t not be disappointed.
I still hope, I still want for, I still wax poetic.
You’re still on my lips even when you’re far from my breath.
But please, oh please, just stay near me.
Be in my lungs and the rush out of my mouth.
Be the coating of my words and the penning of my hands.
Do the things and say the things that I don’t even understand; that I can’t even think or fathom.
Be better for me than I am for myself.
Be for my own good.

Please don’t rise from the weight you carry right now.
On my chest, on my eyelids, on my shoulders.
The weight telling me to stay seated. To take another moment. To take another drink.
The internal/external working & reworking of weight + weightlessness.
The ok-ing of all my thoughts and all my images.
The positive self-talk that is transforming my lenses.

Wednesday

Oct
19

It’s early in the morning on this random Wednesday day and I’m feeling pretty ok as I think about the hours of pretty non-ok that I’ve felt in the last few days.

Moments, emails & conversations from earlier this week left me with the desire to flee & quit. My pain from the hurts of people around me have demanded all my energy and I’ve been throbbing my way through the past few days.

This morning I watched an interview with Brene Brown where she made a comment that the people who can handle the most amount of discomfort rise to the top the quickest. My dad has said a similar thing… that the defining attribute of people of influence is their ability to handle pain.

So the desires to quit, re-route, and ignore taunt me. They tell me that enduring the beating is the only way I’m going to find the path that I’ve longed to travel on. But I wonder if there will be anything left of me if I do this. Is the bruised, wrinkled person, with all the mementos, the triumphant one or is she the one who has been hiding in the shade for 30 years, unweathered, but underdeveloped?

I force myself to think ahead in an attempt to convince my ‘now’ self that I should act on the desires of my ‘future’ self. I conjure my bravest words and grab some pleasant imagery with which to decorate my thoughts. I take deep breaths and long pauses, speak clearly and without emotion. But so far, my ‘now’ self keeps hanging up on my ‘future’ self. I’ll have to try again tomorrow.

Everyone & Me

Aug
01

I recently read the book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. My sister bought it for me for Christmas because she claims she hears me say that phrase a lot. If she does, it’s because I was a traumatized middle child who had to share friends & cousins with my older sister. But I don’t think I really say that. Anyhow, this Mindy Kaling has really been inspiring me to write. I read the excerpts of her book that are so casual and light hearted; so easy to consume and I think “I can write that like”. Like I’m having a conversation with someone except that I have curated all my jokes and profound questions prior to the listener hearing them. And I don’t let the other person in the conversation respond. That’s basically how my conversations go anyhow. I find it best to just have conversations with myself. This way all the parties involved will truly understand where I’m coming from when I say whatever I say, they’ll laugh at my jokes, and there’s rarely awkward eye contact. Although, sometimes I do practice talking in the mirror.

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