Ep#19 Divorce: The Dance of Death of Rebirth with Joanne Encarnacion
In this episode of Your Story Medicine, I welcome Joanne Encarnacion aka "The Queen of Messy Conversations", who has dared to lead hundreds of women down a path of radical self-acceptance, gaining her recognition by CEO of Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington as one of the Top 20 Health and Wellness role models. Jo has pivoted through many different career paths in her lifetime. She is the Founder and Head Bitch in Charge of GOFITJO, which has amassed a following of over 80,000 people and a thriving blog of 20,000 readers a month. Her mission is to help womxn release their shame and create pleasure and play in their relationships to experience healthy sensual bliss in their lives.
Jo speaks to us about her experience as a first-generation Filipino-American who became a mother early in life and what it was like to experience divorce, or as she likes to say, conscious uncoupling. She shares advice for people who are thinking of ending a partnership, sheds light on the significance of self-pleasure in healing, and describes how she finds the balance in reclaiming self-love and embracing a messy life.
How would you describe your medicine?
When I think about my story being my medicine, I think about being 16 years old after my suicide attempt from depression and sexual assault. I think about the fact that there has to be a reason I go through all of this and that I have a purpose to share with the world. My medicine is a relentlessly beautiful life in the mess and the beauty of it all.
What is your ancestral lineage and how has that influenced your medicine today?
I’m a first-generation Filipino-American and my parents traveled here from the Philippines when my mom was 8 months pregnant with me, so she had the intention of having an American-born child. I’m the youngest of three kids and my brother and sister were born and raised in the Philippines. I don’t have many memories with them until I was about 10-12 because they lived there the whole time. I basically grew up as an only child with values that are from a different country, culture, generation, and era. As a natural result of this transition, there was a disorganization of thoughts and beliefs.
My parents urged me to find a good job, find a husband, have kids, and stay in my lane. Creativity was a huge part of my childhood self-expression, so breaking that was interesting. I’ve always been rebellious in the sense that I knew there was more for me in life and I didn’t want to feel complacent, like my parents.
How did you parents receive your news of being pregnant early in life? How did your motherhood experience influence the way you speak about relationships, health, and motherhood?
I became a mom at 21 and was shocked. My parents received it as well as they could, but they had hoped that I wouldn’t go down the same path as my sister, who also got pregnant out of wedlock. It was difficult for me but also a blessing in disguise because at that time, I was pushed towards this path of entrepreneurship to support myself and my child that has really blossomed. It gave me this deeper purpose of providing the women that I coach an opportunity to break free from their conditioning, stories, and traumas around sexuality and intergenerational, dysfunctional family wounds, because that’s what I grew up with.
How do you find the balance in reclaiming self-love while embracing your messy life?
When I’m not in alignment, embodying my own truth, I feel completely blocked in my body. There’s no way for me to function if I’m not radically being myself. I used to service everyone else but myself and I realized I was becoming the martyr that I never wanted to be. I was becoming my mother. When I proclaimed that I was on this wellness journey, people were shocked because on paper, I had it all. I needed to be able to be happy from within and embody that all the way through. It’s time to break free of the projections we put on ourselves and others. Vulnerability sets us free from the prisons we put ourselves in. Human story first is what’s needed to drive us forward.
How do you define pleasure for anybody who is new to this journey?
It’s about sensation and feeling good, but it’s also about feeling good from within and finding joy from within. The opposite of pain is pleasure. You can find pleasure in the pain and you can find pleasure in the grief. In my early stages of divorce, there was difficulty in leaning into the pleasure, as there’s been a lot of grief that has had to happen.
I finally took a week off to process by myself and I remember thinking that that was the week I needed to find the pleasure in this process. I realized that I’m going through this process so that I can find freedom and happiness for myself, independent of a relationship. It was in that moment that I knew I had everything within me already to cultivate that happiness, freedom, and pleasure. When you work through your emotions, pleasure is activated.
Tell us about your divorce experience and how this relates to pleasure.
It’s funny that a marriage is deemed successful only if the couple dies married.
When it comes to my marriage, there was a lot of shame around my profession and my traditional Catholic upbringing. I needed to figure out what parts of this relationship we should keep and subtract so that we could thrive as parents throughout the rest of our lives. We needed to subtract our marriage because the institution of marriage had failed us. We were married into these unconscious beliefs and systems that didn’t serve us. There was so much conditioning woven into the DNA of our relationship and we needed to get rid of it. The one thing we didn’t think about going into the relationship was what it means to honor our own integrity as individuals before coming into this partnership. When we opened up our marriage, we leaned into what the commitment we had to ourselves first was.
Ultimately, I wanted to consciously uncouple. Boundaries needed to be created and enforced. We were together for 18 years and in this divorce process, we’re doing our best to honor ourselves, each other, our pasts, and our futures.
What advice do you have for someone who’s thinking of ending or changing a relationship?
If you’re on the fence or feeling a sense of discontent, ask yourself: Do I still want to put in the work to this relationship?
If the answer is yes, then invest in that work. Go to therapy, hire a coach, work together and see if both partners are willing to put in the work for themselves and the relationship.
If you’ve been in this same cycle or pattern, ask yourself: How much longer am I willing to stay in this cycle?
When you reach the end of a relationship, you’ve most likely been in this cycle for a while. There needs to be an evolution of some sort. Check in with your body and what you need to feel secure. If your partner’s energy isn’t making you feel safe and secure, you’ll know. Once you know, you can’t unknow.
What are you doing to stay grounded and care for yourself during this transition without feeling guilty?
To stay grounded in this transition, I continue to celebrate and honor the joy, the grief, and the mourning. I’ve been sitting with my emotions, journaling when I can, and leaning on my support system of girlfriends and my therapist. I soothe myself with baths and self-pleasure, giving myself space to be myself. I also take things one day at a time, knowing that regardless of my current feelings, I’m taking steps toward where I want to be… even if I don’t know what that looks like yet!
If I need to do something, like sit and collapse for 15 minutes, I’m going to do it, then move on. I compartmentalize things and I do what feels good for me. Guilt and shame still come up from time to time, but I have a conversation with my guilt and shame to figure out where they’re coming from. When I can do that, I put them on the shelf because guilt and shame are not productive. Enforcing boundaries and asking for support is also essential.
My healing process started when I began my self-pleasure practice and when I started exploring pleasure with others, asking for what I needed.
If you could envision yourself as a future ancestor, what would you say to young Jo?
You are a phoenix rising. You’ve got this and you have the support of your entire lineage in writing a story that not only you will be proud of, but your daughters will be proud of. You’re going to liberate so many women from their pain and their shame and their own cases, unleashing the shit out of everyone there. Right now, heal yourself, because you’re on a journey.
Conclusion: Make commitments to yourself first before making commitments to someone else. When you work through your emotions, pleasure is activated. Remember to honor your body for what it needs in this moment. Enforcing boundaries and asking for support is essential in any transition. Vulnerability sets us free from the prisons we put ourselves in.
Action Integration: Write down what an epic breakup or an epic transition would look like to you. (It doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen.) Write down what it is you want from a relationship, then ask yourself if you’re giving yourself that same love.
Learn more about Joanne and her offerings:
Visit her website: www.gofitjo.com
Follow her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/gofitjo
Connect with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/gofitjo
Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gofitjo