Lessons from Joan of Arcadia

List of Joan of Arcadia episodes

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As I continue my ongoing obsession about what I should be doing at this stage in my life, I find myself thinking about the short-lived TV show, Joan of Arcadia.  My whole family loved this show.  It was about a smart-mouthed teen-aged girl, played by Amber Tamblyn, who is given assignments by God.  It was not preachy, nor saccharin sweet.  It was very funny. It had interesting characters played by great actors.  And it dealt with the every day trials of life experienced by teenagers and their parents.  

God shows up in the form of ordinary people and Joan is the only one who knows that he or she is God.  God gives Joan assignments and refuses to explain why Joan is supposed to do them.  Joan does them reluctantly, grudgingly, and with a lot of back talk and eye-rolling.  Their relationship is a source of much of the humor in the show.  Joan says things to God that only a rude, self-absorbed teenager would say, but which all of us have thought:  “What’s in it for me?”  “I am going to look so stupid doing this!” and “Why do I have to do this?” 

But unlike real life, Joan often gets to see the results of her assignments and gets confirmation from God when she has done them well.  In some cases, she is the catalyst for people meeting each other or finding common ground with one another.  In others, she is in a position to offer an empathetic ear to someone who desperately needs it.  In all of the episodes, there are common themes; the importance of connecting with each other; and the need to counter darkness by realizing one’s true potential.  In this show, God operates in subtle ways and always through people like Joan.  It portrayed an image of God at work in the world that I could accept and relate to!  

I have been thinking about the show lately because I have been asking questions of the Universe/God that Joan, the self-absorbed teenager might ask:  “Why did the Universe want me to take this job?” “What’s in this job for me?” “Isn’t this a step backward in my life?”  In my mind, I sound as whiney and rude as Joan in the show.  So, I have been thinking about some of the answers God gave Joan on the show:  “Sometimes the assignments I give you are not always about you” and “Sometimes you won’t know why I asked you to do something so you have to trust that there is a good reason.”  So, in my year of “acting as if the Universe has a plan for me”, I will stay at this job, see what I can learn from it, see how I can contribute while there, and trust that things will become clearer with time.  Thanks Joan!

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About kp

I am a woman and a mother, a sister and a wife. I have called myself a socialist and a feminist, an environmentalist and an activist, a pagan and an atheist. But, at this stage in my life, none of these labels feel right. I am searching; trying to find an inner calm; trying to make peace with life's disappointments; trying to answer the big questions in my own small life.
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6 Responses to Lessons from Joan of Arcadia

  1. I was thinking about this very subject yesterday, Kim! Talk about being on the same wavelength…What boggles my mind is that there are seven billion people in the world, all who came with a God/Love spark, all who can consciously accept ‘love’ assignments or even be an instrument in an unconscious way, all interconnected, and that, somehow, all of our soul-needs are coordinated by some great force of Love, even though most of us can’t see what’s happening. What a system! And yes, there are always ‘big picture’ reasons for what we do, even if they have nothing to do with career, but everything to do with being a Kindness-Seed-Spreader. :) Wishing you many blessings. Pam
    P.S.- I mentioned you (by first name only) in a post about literacy at http://tucsoncitizen.com/never-too-late-to-care/2012/02/04/literacy-and-the-tucson-book-festival/.

    • kp says:

      Hi Pam…That is a hopeful thought isn’t it? If we could all just believe in it (something that I struggle with), we could turn the world around!! Congratulations on your article! It is great!! And is so nice that you mention me in it. Good for you….please let me know about future articles!! Kim

  2. jazzminey says:

    It would really be cool if we could see the results of the assignments that are given to us, or to even know that we are given an assignment. Sometimes I guess it is an exercise in faith. Like way back when I was raising kids, my daughter came home and told me that a friend of hers told her her step-father was molesting her. I called child services. The police were sent over and interviewed the whole family, father, mother and daughter together. The father denied it. The daughter claimed she never said anything. It was decided that I was a meddling neighbor. Later I did learned the father left the house. My daughter lost touch with her friend and now it is almost 30 years later and I wonder, “What was that? Did I help at all?” I will never know.
    I think having faith and then just getting involved with life, moving on, truly just letting it go is the only they we can go unless we can get the writers of our shows to write in a cool wrap up scene.

    • kp says:

      Janice…I know exactly what you mean. That situation that you describe sounds really difficult but I think you have to trust that you did the right thing. My step-daughter was sexually abused by her step-father, and my husband’s reaction to her story, threw our lives and hers and her mother’s into turmoil for years. It cost us a fortune, it was incredibly stressful, and at the end of it all, we lost his daughter to her mother for several years. But my step-daughter came back up to Canada to live years later, and it became clear that her father had done the right thing. His belief in her, his reaction to her story, and the support that he got her, gave her the clarity and the strength to confront her step-father time and time again until he had no power over her at all. We came to realize that we could not judge the outcome of the situation by what we got out of it, which was a lot of heartbreak and $120,000 in legal fees, but by what she got out of it, which was the belief that she was allowed to say “no”, and the strength and the courage to do so. Kim

      • jazzminey says:

        That is an incredibly powerful and profound story. I think in your situation the writers gave you a wrap up story. I guess sometimes we get to see the fruits of your work and others we have to go on faith.

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