humor

Your Clutter is in My Way

“You just need to open yourself up more.”

“You’re too guarded.”

“You’ve gotta put yourself out there.”

Over the past few years, it’s fair to say I’ve heard it all when it comes to dating advice. The well-meaning words of friends and family members rattles around as I walk my dog, drive to the grocery store, and shave my legs.

Just kidding. I don’t shave my legs. #twohairysingles (Yachats, OR, June 2021)

After coming out of a 10+ year long marriage in 2014, I experimented with everything from “All the dates!” to “Imma go hide under a blanket, thank you very much!” I had married my first boyfriend, so the dating world was a shock to the system.

And not the good kind of shock. (Charles Schulz Museum, July 2021)

I started a cycle not unlike yo-yo dieting: Put self on dating app. Engage in series of ultimately disappointing experiences. Swear off dating. Repeat.

As an introvert with stage fright, dating -especially online dating- was torture. It felt like an endless series of performances that always left me anxious and drained, often making unhealthy decisions to cope with the stress. “There has GOT to be a better way,” I’d say to myself after each exhausting date, peeling off my too-tight jeans and scrubbing away my waterproof mascara.

“Oh, he’s cute, you need to give him a chance,” some friends would urge after I’d describe another lackluster date.

Have you met me? I’d always want to respond. Since when does a guy without a box spring or a hairbrush who waits two weeks to get in touch sound like someone I’d want to pursue? I’d then inevitably spiral. I’m a snob. Uptight. Prudish. Close-minded. And worst of all: Maybe I don’t deserve better.

Someone please pray for me, I’m about to go on another date. (Sonoma Botanical Garden, July 2021)

I’d watch my pretty, extroverted, single friends meet guy after guy, rebounding quickly from any letdowns. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I need to change. What would it be like to have a one-night stand? As each thought would pop up, my stomach would tighten.

By 2019, I’d quit my corporate job and moved 3,000 miles away to a new town, sight unseen. At 37, I had finally plucked up the courage to live a life that was uniquely my own. It was terrifying. Uncertain. Magnificent.

I tried dating in this new setting, only to meet similar results. By then, it had already occurred to me that the better part of my life had been spent following footsteps down a path I didn’t want to be on in the first place. I was making the same choices as everyone around me, overlooking one critical detail: I didn’t want anyone else’s life.

And that’s something to celebrate. (My cookbook launch party, Bend, OR, July 2021)

That’s why, when I hear even the kindest and most well-intentioned, “You need to open up [to dating/men] more,” my extremely sensitive self hears (and sometimes cries in public from hearing):

“You need to change.”

“You’re missing out on the best life has to offer because of the way you inherently are.”

“All of your life experience, self-reflection, and years of therapy isn’t enough for you to know what’s best for you.”

“You will never be whole without a romantic partner.”

Interestingly, the advice almost always comes from fellow singles. Married friends are far more likely to applaud my independent streak and passion/career focus. “There’s always time for relationships. Being part of a couple isn’t the be all, end all,” many of my married friends say.

Perhaps because I started young in the marriage department, I’m excited to fill my time with other things. After a vacation this month, I couldn’t wait to get back to work on my new business. Especially as an introvert, my energy is a very finite thing, and I’ve learned to carefully protect it.

There’s a season for everything, as they say. (Yachats, OR, June 2021)

When we protect ourselves in this way, others sometimes interpret it as a kind of shutting down. We retreat to a place known only to us, and our loved ones may not understand this sacred practice. I also think it scares people when we unapologetically go against the grain. Like quitting a stable job. Going vegan. Declaring that you genuinely enjoy being alone.

Boca Betty says, “Always remembah: Othah people’s advice has everything tuh do wit them and very little tuh do wit yous.”

Still, I often wonder if all of my conviction about singlehood is rooted in defensiveness and stubbornness. A fear of getting hurt (again). All fair points I’ve extensively mined, always returning to this notion that I should only take steps that lead to the results I uniquely desire.

The path I’m carving is full of face-to-face connection, pursuing passions, friendships, and shared laughter, and what may look like guardedness towards men or strangers is often just energy preservation. When it comes to dating, I’ve intentionally chosen a quieter path. I’ve chosen the long game. This is very different from saying, “I’m closed off to love.”

I prefer to think of my decision to put dating on a back burner as a kind of decluttering. Just like I can’t relax or think straight when my tables are piled high with junk, I can’t ground myself emotionally when I let too many other opinions or too many competing priorities stack up inside of me. When I feel myself wobble from the extra noise, I’m grateful for this blog as a way to stabilize my thoughts, standing both open and firm as I share my voice.

May you always find your path through the clutter,

~*~*~*~*~*~

How do you “declutter”? What has been the hardest advice to process?

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

I Wouldn’t Go Back… Would You?

“How do you meet people here?” the baby-faced cashier asked, deftly punching keys on her register.

After spending a Kohl’s gift card on much-needed, post-quarantine clothes, the cashier and I had struck up a conversation about moving to Bend, Oregon – a common topic in a town full of transplants.

“I got really lucky,” I explained. “I had a few friends here who introduced me to a bunch of people as soon as I got here.”

“Wow, that is lucky,” she replied wistfully.

“But there are a bunch of great groups you can join!” I offered, rattling off some examples of how I’d met other people. “There are some really nice running groups here, even if you’re not a runner. Everyone hangs out afterwards for beer.”

“I guess I’ll have to wait a year then,” she laughed.

Realizing that she wasn’t yet legal drinking age, my heart melted. She could have been me at 20. Pale, tall, overweight, hopelessly sweet. I bet someone once told her she was “made for retail,” too.

18-year-old Jules dressed to (not) impress for her role as Retail Store Clerk of the Year at a Harry Potter book release party.

“It was so nice meeting you,” I smiled as I gathered my bag and headed into the high desert heat.

I thought about that cashier all night long. Her kindness and sincerity, loneliness, and what I imagined to be sky-high dreams. How she let me do most of the talking and showed genuine interest in and compassion for a complete stranger. When I was just a little younger than her, also working in retail, an older coworker -and soon to be best friend- took me under her wing and showed me the world’s wonders. A late bloomer, I was in my late teens and early 20s before I really started living.

22-year-old Jules marries the lead singer of a rock band. (True story. Although that outfit is all lies.)

Now, at 39, I so badly wanted to tell that sweet young woman at Kohl’s about the untold adventures she would surely have. The heartbreaks and “sex, drugs and rock and roll” and monotony and horrible jobs and great jobs and moves and upsizing and downsizing and new friends and lost friends and weight loss and weight gain and lessons learned and mistakes made and death and birth and epiphanies and ice cream pints and crying yourself to sleep.

I would tell her it gets better.

Even when it doesn’t.

I would tell her suddenly you’ll be almost 40 and still wonder (and care) if people like you and if your dream of your soulmate just came from a Disney movie and if this is -dear god- as good as your ass is ever gonna look and if that freckle got bigger overnight and is actually deadly skin cancer and if you go broke how bad would it really be to live in your parents’ basement and speaking of what on earth are you going to do when your parents are gone and at least you have your dog but oh f*ck he’s 11 and you’ve gotta come up with a plan and you’ve checked all the boxes and gotten all the credentials and kissed all the right butts only to find out.

There is no plan.

Why the f@%# didn’t anyone tell me there’s no plan?!

And yet.

I would tell her, “20 years ago, I doubted my sexiness, humor, intellect, and power even more than I do today. You’ll come to cling to the version of yourself who realizes that anyone worth knowing and anything worth doing embraces all of you – even the older, slightly saggier you.”

Sunset lighting: masking wrinkles since forever.

Nope. I wouldn’t go back to 20. …Would you?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

The First Damn Page

This is awful, this is awful, this is SO awful…

I adjusted my sports bra and sniffled. Everything hurt. And why was my nose running anyway?

Is this pavement getting HARDER?

I glanced at my watch. Oh, you’ve got to be f!%&@ kidding me. 0.67 miles?!

How did people do this? Why did people do this? Running had to be -positively no way around it abso-freaking-lutely- the worst possible idea since scorpion bowls.

But it seemed like such a good idea at the time…

It was 2014, and, newly divorced and influenced by a number of sporty friends, I’d decided to turn my daily walks into daily jogs. I’d never run more than a mile, and had nothing charitable to say about the “sport.” Psh. Sport. Masochism at its finest.

Despite my entire body screaming at me to come to my senses, I trudged onward. After I passed mile one and closed in on mile two, the strangest, most miraculous, most unexpected thing happened.

It. Stopped. Hurting.

I nearly keeled over from the shock of NOT WANTING TO KEEL OVER. Is this… can this… is this how people do this?!

I stand, er, lie corrected.

Within a few days, I went from never having run more than a mile to running six. In a row. And then a half marathon six weeks after that. And then a full marathon a few months later. I had cracked the code. I had done the thing that only DOING THE THING can show you:

The first mile is the hardest.

Okay so also [cycling] mile 100 is the hardest.

So is the first time you say to someone, “I don’t think this is working out.”

So is the first day on a new job when everyone is using lingo and technology that flies over your head.

So is the first moment you leave the known for the unknown.

In my experience, if I can get past the starting line, I’ve already won the race.

I’ve been thinking a lot about starts and finishes because springtime is so full of contrast, especially in Bend, Oregon. One minute you’re pulling up the zipper on your “puffy” coat (mandatory clothing in the Pacific Northwest), the next you’re sunning your shoulders on a local trail.

Bright, beautiful wildflowers begin to pop up in the most unexpected, seemingly inhospitable places – like between lava rock or thick sand. And even though it happens every year, springtime always feels like something brand new. A birth, rather than a rebirth.

Am I the rock or the flower? OR AM I BOTH? –Deep Thoughts with Go Jules Go

During the long, cold, fallow winter, it’s nearly impossible to remember that in a few months’ time, your neighbor will once again pull out the grill every night, the sound of squeaky wheels on concrete wafting through your open window.

During the lowest lows of heartache, job uncertainty, and loss, you feel like you’ll never begin again. Or perhaps it’s that long-held dream -the kind you’ve had for so long you don’t know who you’d be without it- whose fulfillment seems more unattainable with every passing day.

I’ve wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember. In fact, according to an article in the New York Times, 81% of Americans want to write a book. And almost no one does.

Why?

It’s that first damn page.

Sadly, so many times we never get to mile two and learn this ultimate life hack. Because the best part? Tackling the first mile of any race makes all the other “first miles” easier, too.¬†

Never in a million years did I envision my first published book being a cookbook. Let alone one that I (co) wrote, photographed, designed, and marketed – despite having zero expertise in any one of those categories.

It’s the hardest project I’ve ever undertaken. Every element involved a first step – something I’d never done before. I doubted myself in almost every moment.

Except when I asked these cuties to be on the cover. Zero doubts there.

Now that copies are about to land in people’s hands, and I experienced the unadulterated horror of seeing that my first news interview added 40 pounds and involved me eating my hair on air in a windy park for 60 seconds (and prompted a whole slew of, er, uncharitable comments from meat-loving locals), I’m battling another first: Putting myself out there – really, really out there. Which of course involves finding the confidence to keep saying, “I made this, it’s good, and I’m proud of it.” Which of course means saying, “I’m worthy.”

Still working on that one.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported BEEFLESS CAKES at every stage. You’ve kept me from setting up permanent residence under a blanket. I love you!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

The Must Be Nices

It was another bright, sunny day in Bend, Oregon as I cruised down the main drag on my way home after a run. I passed the local elementary school and saw a dozen parents standing outside. I glanced at the clock: 2:30pm.

I came to a slow stop as a man leisurely crossed the street in front of me. Every parent was decked out in expensive, athletic-inspired clothing, and looked about 40 or older. They were all tall, thin, and their skin glowed. Any one of them could have graced the cover of I Ski a Lot, Have a $2,000 Skin Care Routine, and Never Had to Work a Crappy Job and Put My Kids in After School Care magazine.

“Wheeeee! Our parents funded our ‘whimsical taco holder’ start-up and it made millions – both of which we didn’t need in the first place!” (Photo by Eirik Uhlen on Unsplash)

“Must be nice,” I thought. Gah! No!

I stopped my inner monologue dead in its tracks. I had just had a discussion with a friend about the “Must Be Nices.” Those friends or family members who just can’t bear to celebrate other people’s successes. That neighbor or coworker who takes one look at the surface of someone else’s life and assumes that every aspect of it is easy breezy.

Oh really, Claire? Your boyfriend just flew you to Italy so you could stage this photo for InstaChat? (Photo by Kate Hliznitsova on Unsplash)

We all know that person, and we’ve all been that person.

WOW, Chad. I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU. (As seen on Monday at my local market.)

A few weeks later, once again on the way to my go-to running spot, I pulled up to a red light and noticed a man standing on the corner, holding a cardboard sign:

NEED WORK / FOOD / MONEY.

I had seen him before, and many other men holding similar signs, on that same corner. Over the past year, this sight had become more and more commonplace all over town. I felt a pang of shame and guilt every time I drove by or avoided eye contact.

La-la-la, if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

I used to wonder why on earth people would stand on street corners all day when surely there were better, safer methods and resources available. In the past, I’d felt fear, and even resentment, when passing by someone holding a sign asking for help. Why should I have to play by the rules and slog away in Cubicle City just to give my money away to someone who didn’t earn it?

After my jog, I popped into Whole Foods. When I pulled away, a woman was sitting in the grass near the exit, holding a sign that read, “Every bit helps.” I suddenly remembered I was carrying cash – a rarity when I’m out running. I pulled over and quickly jumped out, praying I wouldn’t get rear ended for stopping in such an awkward spot. I handed her what money I had.

Over the next two weeks, I couldn’t get her face out of my mind. Why didn’t I do that more often?

I mean we can’t take it with us.

Why was it so easy to focus on what I lacked instead of what I had? No matter what my circumstances, didn’t I have the power (and arguably, responsibility) to create a more just world through positive thoughts and actions? “A rising tide lifts all boats,” as they say.

In spiritual terms, as in tithing, I’ve often read that benevolent acts are returned tenfold. For every hug, encouraging word, and generous gesture you put out in the world, you get it back times ten.

While I’d hate for that to be my motivation, where else can you get that kind of return on investment?

After I handed the woman outside of Whole Foods money, we smiled at each other. She looked right into my eyes, and with more warmth and sincerity than I can muster when the line at Starbucks is too long, she said,

“May God bless you tenfold.”

What she didn’t say?

“Must be nice.”

humor

Before 40

Last week, I turned 39. So it might seem strange that I’m already thinking about my next birthday.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to age out of childhood. I was always more comfortable around adults, so naturally, I wanted to be one. I fantasized about being one of those cool older women, with gorgeous gray hair, rock climbing into my 60s, kicking ass and taking names.

Never mind that I’m terrified of heights and have never rock climbed a day in my life. IT’S MY FANTASY, OKAY?! (Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash)

What I didn’t anticipate was that I’d start having a midlife crisis in my 20s. By 30, my master plan of aging gracefully came to a screeching halt. I was freaking. The. Freak. Out.

What am I doing with my life? What’s the point of it all? What if I never figured “it” out?

The crisis, in many ways, continues to this day. Perhaps suggesting we have more of an existential, versus midlife, one on our hands. This can’t be it. This can’t be all there is. Accumulating baggage and trying to unload it. Accumulating more baggage, attempting to unload it. Over, and over, and over. An endless series of life lessons, distilled into messages that read like a crappy, floral-covered mug.

Love is the answer. Live in the moment. Breathe.

My 39th birthday was filled to the brim with love and celebration. It always feels deeply humbling and bittersweet to be on the receiving end of so much kindness. Face in the sunshine, puffy white clouds, heart full – full of gratitude, but also the knowing that every puffy white cloud casts a shadow. Darkness and light. Hope and despair. Two sides of the same coin, forced to exist together to hold any value.

And maybe that’s at the root of all of our crises. The idea that there’s anything to hold onto. A certain person. A certain age. A certain weight. A certain feeling. A certain bank balance. A certain outcome. In the quest for certainty, we miss out on so much.

So over the next 11 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, as I wind my way towards my biggest milestone birthday yet, I’m going to try something different. I’m NOT going to sit here and type out a list of all of the things I want to make happen before I turn 40, which was my original plan.

I’ve already checked countless boxes. Hiked/run/biked all the miles. Surpassed my own To Do lists. If any of that held the Key to Existence, Oprah would have interviewed me by now.

Annnnd still waiting.

The coming year will be as likely filled with promise as it is with heartache. There will be picture perfect moments with people who raise my spirits, and lonely nights with a bottle of wine that whispers, “You’re unlovable.” Suns will set and rise, and laughter will come and go, and instead of trying to hold onto any of it, this year, I’m just going to ride the waves.

F&@*. That sounds like a floral-covered mug.
humor

I Lasted 48 Hours on Tinder

“We met on Tinder!”

“…And now we’re engaged!”

“It’s really not just a hook-up app anymore.”

In recent years, I’d heard testimonials trumpeting Tinder as, “No Longer the One Night Stand Dating App You Used to Love to Hate.” Nevertheless, given that I wasn’t a big fan of dating apps (or, let’s be honest, dating), I’d steered clear.

Two years ago, when I moved to Oregon from New Jersey, I’d been single for two years. Free from marriage, Corporate America, and east coast humidity, I decided it was time to fire up Bumble (a dating app similar to Tinder in its swiping, but where only women have the power to send the first message). Let’s see if the scene is any different now that I live 3,000 miles away from my hometown.

Arguably, it was far worse in my new, small town (as the story linked above will prove). In New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S., you could go weeks without bumping into a familiar face. The likelihood of running into an ex or bad first date in Bend, Oregon, however: 113%. (Give or take.)

I quickly gave up and resumed my usual lifestyle: Friends, food, fur babies.

If only I could date him. Side note: My fur baby is famous now.

There was always the nagging thought that perhaps I’d “given up” versus consciously deciding to bow out of the dating scene.

“You’ve gotta put yourself out there!”

“It takes time to meet the right person.”

“Give him a chance!”

Despite honing my gut instinct over the past 38 years, the din of the masses still got to me. Maybe “they” all knew something I didn’t. Maybe everything I thought was right for me was just a way of protecting myself from getting hurt. Maybe I was going to DIE ALONE OH MY GOD I DON’T WANT TO DIE ALONE.

And that’s how I got sucked in -AGAIN- to downloading a dating app on my phone last week. This time, I bit the bullet and chose the infamous Tinder. I swiped right, I swiped left, and I periodically put down my phone to hide under a blanket.

As matches and messages trickled in, my heart raced. Not in the good way. More in the clammy, “it puts the lotion in the basket,” low-level dread kind of way. Okay, Jules. Maybe you’re just talking yourself out of a good thing. Maybe you need to just get a post-COVID date out of the way. Break the seal.

I fired back a couple of overly clever replies to two men. Ugh. No. I can’t do this! I don’t want to meet any of these people! Who knows who they really are?!

I’d been on enough online dates to know that, no matter how many photos and phone calls you exchange before the first meeting, you’re still going on a blind date. And does anyone really want to go on an endless series of blind dates?

NO. BECAUSE IT’S WORSE THAN SYPHILIS. Or so I’ve heard. From a friend.

Let me put it this way. The best online date pales in comparison to Netflix and pasta. And involves far more prep time.

Do you think this just happens?!

Within 48 hours, and long before I could exchange more than two short messages with anyone, I deleted my Tinder account. I briefly entertained the fantasy that some of my matches fell to their knees, shaking their fists at the heavens, crying, “WHERE DID SHE GO? WHERE?!?!?!”

A few nights later, I shared drinks with a couple of girlfriends, and the conversation turned to our exes.

“I just got this random Facebook message from my ex’s new girlfriend. Look.”

She showed us her phone, which displayed a long string of messages: “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I know you dated [him] a while ago and I just have to know… did you experience anything like this? He’s gotten really emotionally and verbally abusive, accusing me of cheating and calling me all of these names and I just don’t know what to do.”

My friend was too afraid to say much in response for fear that this ex had created a fake account and was in fact the one messaging her. “Oh my god he’s been doing that to me!” the new girlfriend wrote. “Creating fake accounts…stalking me…”

“I still fear for my life from one of my exes,” I chimed in. “Everyone knows who to arrest if I go missing.”

Hint: It’s not Uncle Jesse. Even though I know he’s still plotting his revenge after this haircut.

“Yes!” my friend exclaimed. “Every woman I’ve talked to has a story like this!”

A familiar feeling rose in my chest. A mix of nausea, compassion, and curiosity. All of the “scary ex” stories always made me think, “What are we [as a society] doing wrong? This can’t be the result of testosterone overload. If our male counterparts could express hurt, sadness, and fear freely, would any of this happen?”

The very next morning, I woke up to a ‘New Blog Comment’ alert. Someone from Match.com, with whom I went on one date six years ago, had commented on a blog post from 2015. I had written a post about our first (and only) date and… apparently it didn’t land well with him.

He also took the time to create a fake email address and website to leave this comment.

I scratched my head. How did he even FIND this? I don’t think I ever mentioned that I had a blog, I always change or omit names, and I try REALLY hard not to say anything seemingly cruel… In fact, I had intentionally framed the post as, “This bizarre thing happened on a first date: what would you do to handle it?” to avoid coming across like I was maligning the man.

(In a nutshell: After our first date, this fella started sending me a cappella karaoke clips he’d recorded on his phone, and some other things I wasn’t quite sure how to react to, like a LinkedIn connection request and an article he’d written many years earlier [which he copied and pasted, in its entirety, into a single text message].)

After rereading the story several times, I definitively concluded that the post was funny – and harmless. Also, half the reason I’ve suffered through dating is for the stories.

PLEASE DON’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.

Still, I cringed. I’m sure it can’t be fun to stumble on a blog post about you, even if it’s innocuous (…and six years old). More than that, though, I felt that same swirling concern. Why? Why do we exist in a world where hurt and pain (or simply bruised egos) become violence, cruelty, stalking, and aggression?

Here’s a situation where I spent a few hours with someone -a perfect stranger- six years ago, never saw him again, and now I feel unsafe. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that my inner monologue shouts, “Well. You blogged about him. YOU’RE ASKING FOR IT.”

Sigh. If anyone wants a pasta and Season 4 “Breaking Bad” binge, hit me up.

Ah. That’s more like it.

~*~*~*~*~

I almost don’t want to ask this, but: Any similar stories or concerns you’d like to share? Or, what do you think we can each do to create a safer, kinder world?

~*~*~*~*~

humor

A Working Issue

I promise this is the last in an unplanned, overly contemplative series (that began with, “My Mane Issue,” followed by, “A Weighty Issue“). Next week: Puppies and Pop-Tarts!

“Are you looking for jobs?”

“Hey, I know someone who’s hiring.”

“You could always do consulting.”

“Have you heard about Fiverr?”

Over the past two years, since quitting my corporate job, well-intentioned and wonderful people have asked all of the questions and suggested all of the resources you might expect if you were out of work.

I don’t mind one bit. In fact, quite the opposite. Having friends and family who care enough to take an interest in my life, and want to help me in any way, fills me with humility and joy.

Also a lot of them give really good presents so I don’t want to piss them off.

What’s interesting to me, though, are the underlying, often subconscious beliefs we all seem to hold about working and jobs in general. They run the gamut from, “work to live” to “find your passion and turn it into a living” to “you must work until you’re 65 and then you can relax and enjoy life.”

After quitting my New Jersey-based corporate job two years ago, I hiked, explored, and saw friends every day. Oh, and moved across the country.

HANG ON. YOU’RE NOT 65. BACK TO WORK!

As the months ticked by and I failed to sign a contract committing myself to another Inc. or S-Corp, I could almost hear the wheels in people’s minds turning. What is she going to do? How much money did she save? Wow, that would make me so nervous

Every time I felt like my inner balance was restored, my tank overflowing, I’d pull up a job search engine on my laptop. Project manager… Editor… Event planner… Work from home…

I was 37 years old. Eventually my hard-earned savings would run out. “It’s time to get serious,” I’d think. In fact, I even took a low-paying job at a nonprofit for a few weeks before pulling the plug. Just dipping a toe back into the 9-to-5 world made me feel suicidal (…I wish I was exaggerating about that).

Empty.

Alone.

Frustrated.

Worthless.

Lost.

Trapped.

One of my life’s central themes was playing out in a big way: Do What Everyone Else is Doing and Endlessly Spiral vs. F@$% THAT NOISE, GURRRRRRL!!!!!!!! THAT SHIZ IS CRAYYYYYY. PEACE. OUT.

What can I say? I like to shake things up. (Champagne excluded.)

Half the time, I was convinced I was stuck in an adolescent stage of development. Dramatic. Self-absorbed. Impulsive. Rebellious. Why was working for someone else SO hard? “Something’s wrong with me!” The other half of the time, I was sure I was a brave crusader. A fearless path forger. “You don’t fit into that box ’cause that box is bullshirt, friend!”

My dad once said I’m a Phoebe (a la “Friends”). I have no idea what he’s talking about.

I was yet again doing the Comfort Zone Dance; the one with all the fancy footwork so you forget that nothing incredible ever actually happens there.

And as we all know, bouncing between shoulds and coulds is exhausting.

When I was just two years old, I would regularly go full-on Beyonc√©, changing my clothes 4-6+ times a day. “You’d pull every outfit from the bottom drawer of your dresser,” my mom, Babs, often recounted. “It was impossible to stop you.”

I’m headed for the bottom drawer and JUST TRY AND STOP ME.

A few years later, in first grade, I heard another student talk about his mom laying out his clothes for him.

WHAT?! I thought. You let someone else pick out your clothes?!

I stood on the blacktop while we waited for the bell to ring, utterly horrified. It never even occurred to me that other kids wouldn’t choose their own outfits, too. That was also the year I learned about ocean conversation and started paying attention to what I threw in the garbage. The following year, when kids ganged up on one poor soul for being “different,” I stepped in and shouted, “How would YOU like it?”

Man. I’m telling you. Seven-year-old Jules was a rockstar. And maybe a little bit of a brat.

I DEFINITELY wasn’t this.

By the time I was 17, I had gotten my GED, worked full-time, and had started taking college classes, not really sure I wanted to pursue a full degree. When I committed to a Bachelor’s in creative writing, I found a school that let me (mostly) design my own curriculum and worked my butt off.

Speaking of butts. They let me graduate, and now sometimes I even put my pants on the right way!

It’s taken until just this past year to recognize -let alone embrace- that all of those breadcrumbs trickle down the same path. The path the says: You’re hardwired to go your own way. You should have never […gotten married or…] worked for anyone else.

I can’t tether myself to anyone else’s vision, expectations, or rules and expect to thrive.

It isn’t laziness. Now that I work for myself, I work harder than ever. It isn’t over-confidence. I swirl in a familiar cloud of self-doubt roughly 17,633 times a day. And it isn’t selfish. All I want to do in this life is protect other life.

And it’s okay if my rollercoaster existence makes people nervous. Uncomfortable. Confused. Threatened. Worried.

In fact, don’t tell anyone, but I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m here.

Buckle up, y’all.

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How have you found your way in the world? (Yes. We ask simple questions here at Go Jules Go.)

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humor

A Weighty Issue

In my last blog post, I talked about my “mane” issue, and -not one to shy from barf-worthy wordplay- today I wanted to expand on the topic with a “weighty” issue.

You could say this topic weighs heavily on me. …OKAY I’M DONE NOW.

In trying to free up space on my laptop last week, I discovered a video clip from January 2014.

Hells bells. Don’t ever try to upgrade your laptop operating system when you’re looking for a video clip from 2014. Please accept this photo from the same timeframe.

I watched this platinum blonde bombshell in a tight red sweater dress with a mix of awe and regret. I was in love with her. This girl can have anything she wants. Is she even real?

At the time, I was 31 and my 10+ year marriage had just ended. I’d been laid off from my steady corporate job in New Jersey, was planning to move to Maine, and flirting with a Navy pilot who lived 3,000 miles away. I was also pretending I wasn’t in love with someone who didn’t love me back.

What the ACTUAL top guns was I thinking?!

I(t) was a mess. Except not really. I felt more alive than I’d ever felt. Anything was possible. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t struggling with food. I had something far more appetizing: hope.

I wouldn’t experience that feeling again until five years later when, after many remarkable synchronicities, I quit my [next] corporate job, packed my car, and drove across the country to live in a town I’d never laid eyes on.

Home sweet Oregon home.

I also didn’t know then that, in just a few months time, Navy Pilot would erode my newfound self-esteem, followed by a series of events that would effectively seal the deal, and I’d settle back into a far more familiar place.

That is to say, carefully angled photos from the waist up.

I’ve always been chubby. I went on my first diet when I was 9 years old. By then, I would have given anything to look as cute as my best friends, The Twins, in their swimsuits. By 12, I heard loud and clear, “Boys don’t like fat girls.” By 16, I was anorexic.

I got a lot of compliments that year.

When I was 33, I cold called a therapist and, trying not to cry, said, “My binge eating is out of control.” I saw her for three years.

If you made a list of all of the reasons people struggle with weight, I have 99.8% of them.

I really liked making lists until this very moment.

And yet.

It’s still this giant mystery to me. I still feel like I haven’t cracked the code. The closest I’ve come is in realizing that I need to make friends with this so-called demon because she isn’t going anywhere. As news of the COVID vaccine circulation hit the airwaves, I actually thought to myself, “Better binge now while you still can.”

I recently watched a video clip (thanks, Flynn) about our ‘silent To Do lists.’ The bottom line: every bit of stuff we keep in our homes speaks to us. The dishes say, “Wash me.” The books say, “Read me.” And the clothes that no longer fit say, “You aren’t good enough for me.”

“Just try and run a 10-minute mile marathon now!” this photo screams.

When we surround ourselves by things that don’t serve us -or people who don’t- we’re subjecting ourselves to silent, but very clear, messages that don’t serve us either.

I watched the girl in the 2014 red dress video and wanted to be her again. But would I really want to go back in time to that tumultuous place? Back to thinking some misogynistic creep was all I deserved? Back to going to sleep hungry every night? Sometimes it’s impossible to know which thoughts are serving us and which thoughts just bring us more anxiety.

I still haven’t figured it out.

Have you?

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humor

My Mane Issue: A Tribute

Before we dive in: I’m so sorry about last week’s email notification debacle! (Wherein my subscribers got an email notification saying I had a new, password-protected blog post available.) You didn’t miss a post, but to make it up to you, this week I’m offering the greatest blog post I’ve ever written.*

*this week

The follicle foibles I mentioned two weeks ago have raged on, and I’ve now colored my hair as many times as I’ve moved in the last six years.

Attempts #1,347-1,351.

The first time I ever dyed my hair, I was in my mid-teens. I had grown up a natural blonde…

Why cut your child’s hair free-form when you can use a bowl instead? P.S. – Happy birthday [to my brother], Bryan! I did NOT print our family portrait on a face mask or blanket for you this year. You’re welcome.

…but by the time I hit teen years, my hair color had faded into some sort of strange nothingness. It wasn’t blonde. Or brown. Or gray. Or anything. In trying to reclaim my roots (pun soooo intended), I wound up with a Chucky-esque, clown-orange hue. I eventually gave up, chopped off the offending remnants, and went au naturel.

I think we can all agree: everything in this photo needs to go away.

That didn’t last long.

By 19, I was determined. I would be Jules. Jules Blonde.

Why is this photo in my blog archives? What is this?

Though I’ve stayed primarily blonde through my late 30s, you can rest assured I’ve tried going brunette.

March 2010

“I don’t like it. It isn’t you,” my boss and mentor said, when, at 27, I decided to switch things up and come to work sporting a dark brown mane. By that point she’d known me as a blonde for five years.

Well this is awkward.

Her name was Carol and I worshipped her. She had a barely tamed, reddish-gray, curly bob, wore boxy, black jumpers over patterned turtlenecks, chunky black orthopedic flats, and took no prisoners. She was a mid-level manager in a high-level pharmaceutical company, and for some reason decided that employing a creative writing major with zero corporate experience was a swell idea.

At 22 years old, I got a plastic ID badge, a 401k, and a fast lesson in office politics and Excel spreadsheets.

My entire life from 2007-2011.

In those days, I didn’t know it was wrong to race into your boss’s office at 7:45am and holler, “I GOT A NEW CAR IT’S A BEETLE CONVERTIBLE COME LOOK COME LOOK!”

Clearly I have a lot of bad ideas.

In those days, I didn’t know it was noteworthy to start a weekly “Cookie Day” and host potlucks in the dreary back conference room.

In those days, I didn’t know that writing ironic birthday poems, baking cheesecake, and hanging Despair.com calendars across your cubicle was endearing.

“I just have to tell you,” Carol said after a few months on the job, “I finally read what that poster said because I just couldn’t believe you’d have one of ‘those’ [motivational] calendars. I was so relieved.”

Actual poster hanging in my first cubicle.

In those days, all I knew was that the people I saw every day from 9 to 5 had lost a sparkle in their eyes and I was naive enough to think I could bring it back with baked goods and bad great jokes.

After Carol’s hair comment, I didn’t stay brunette for long, and in returning to blonde, I saw that she was right. Over the years I worked with her, she made a few enemies and more than a few missteps, but she always saw me.

Not long after that, she died of cancer. It’s been over ten years and I still can’t really think of her without crying.

When someone sees you, it lives forever.

So. While I’ve enjoyed this latest pitstop [thanks to a botched bleach job] and treasure my friends’ kind words…

…I’ll be back to blonde myself soon.

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Do you have a similar attachment to an aspect of your appearance?

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