“I don’t know how to ‘rate’ how I’m feeling. I don’t even f*@%ing want to be here.”
Seven heads shot up and stared at the redheaded woman in our circle. A few of us giggled nervously.
“You all have these cool projects you’re presenting, and I just don’t know what I’m doing here.”
Alyssa’s eyes watered and inwardly, we all applauded. Finally. An honest answer.
In an uncharacteristically social moment a few months earlier, I had accepted a friend’s invitation to a “Vegan Creatives” 5-day retreat on Cape Cod.
“I want to get a bunch of my vegan artist friends together to talk about our projects and brainstorm,” Shawna, the retreat mastermind, had explained. She and I had met the prior summer at my Masters program residency, where she had graciously overlooked my penchant for public urination.
Much like the cold sweats I experience when interviewing narcissists for school assignments, as the retreat neared, I began to shvitz. What was I thinking? I didn’t know the hostess or anyone going. Sure, I had my thesis project to present, but I was also in the throes of writing said thesis. Could I handle any more stress?
“JUST GO,” I told myself for the 9,000th time. “It’ll be good for you.”
Arrive at guest house. Meet three-legged, one-eyed dog and attractive vegans #1-7. Eat colorful food and receive unicorn name. Grow concerned that I seem to be having…what’s the word…fun. No. That can’t be it.
Convince Alyssa she too is having, well, whatever these feelings are. Begin stroking each other’s hair. Watch Tracy feed pet bee sugar water. Try to take photo without Dakota wearing a bowl. Unsuccessful.
Eat more colorful food, voluntarily touch beach garbage, and reevaluate entire existence. Can I vote using new unicorn name?
Learn that not only do new best friends save animals, sing, write, paint, cook, act, travel, scale mountains, rollerblade with bubbles and have kickass blogs, but the hostess, Allison Argo, has won half a dozen Emmys. Attempt to steal one.
Say goodbye. Ugly cry.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tuck my Emmy into bed.
Yesterday I had to interview someone for a grad school assignment.
Emphasis on “had” to.
Assignments like this send me, a 36-year-old introvert, into a cold sweat before the semester even begins. Especially when I land an interview with someone who has a very fancy title in a sector with which I am very unfamiliar.
I immediately took to Google. This man and I were from nearby towns and he was, I soon learned, just a few years older. We undoubtedly had acquaintances in common, changing the whole tenor of the interview. I found him on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube…I suddenly knew way too much about him before even meeting, reminiscent of my prolific dating days.
“Just chill out,” I told myself. “At least it’s not a date!”
Except it totally was. Coffee shop, late afternoon, two people with an agenda…
As soon as my interview subject -let’s call him Ted- arrived, he stuck out his hand and said,
“Hi Jessica, nice to meet you.”
Did he just say Jessica? We’d exchanged at least five emails prior to meeting. Perhaps I should rethink my signature.
He had the Book of Mormon-meets-Quasi-Casual-First-Date look down pat: pressed checkered button-down and perfectly coiffed hair, complemented by fitted slacks with matching belt and shoes.
“You know, I just came from the same coffee shop in [a nearby town],” he said, walking towards the counter. “I was meeting Mr. Mucky Pants from the Board. We had so much to discuss, I didn’t even get to have coffee.”
And thus began a 90-minute, name-drop-laden autobiography in which Ted was the unsung hero.
Beginning in 6th grade.
I managed to ask two of my eight questions.
Midway through, he veered -unprovoked- into his personal life, detailing his recent divorce.
“I’m a really happy guy,” he said repeatedly, with a razor sharp edge to his voice. “I played the role of the guy who tried to fix everything. I have a really long fuse, you know. But get this…”
Ted went on to describe his ex-wife’s grievances, and then how wonderfully everything worked out for him, because:
“I’m a really likable guy. I mean, really. I’m so easy to like.”
“Jury’s still out,” I replied before I could stop myself.
He plowed ahead, telling me about the amazing woman he’d met shortly thereafter, and I wondered how I’d ever get us back on track. He leaned across the table, his hands dangerously close to my Central Perk-sized latte. I angled back in my chair, legs crossed, my pen hovering over a small notepad. My heart rate picked up. The flashbacks came in nauseating waves.
…The guy who showed me YouTube clips where he surgically removed his big toenails…
…The guy who wanted to hook up because he and his wife were “on a break”…
…The guy who told me he only dated “German girls”…
…The guy who said his mother made him “scared of sex”…
“So the next day, Ms. Fancy Drawers called and said she RECOMMENDED me to the Board.”
I snapped back into the moment. Ted was still going.
“This woman has met the president and the pope, you know? Yeah so that was exactly 17 years ago today. That’s right. I was sitting in her office, seeing smoke across the Hudson.”
I nodded and scribbled in my notepad while Ted talked about how hard 9/11 had been for him, personally, on the very day of his esteemed new role.
“Do you have kids?”
Wha…did he just ask ME a question?
“No,” I replied, sitting up straight. “But I do have a d–”
“Well, I have two,” he said. “You need to show kids that THEY’RE IN CONTROL of how they react to everything. You know? Shit happens.”
“Thank you again for your time,” I said when he finally paused to take another sip of his artisan cold brew. I also gave silent thanks to the Merciless Parking Meter Gods who brought this interviewdate torture to a close.
“I just hope I’m always this accessible,” Ted replied.
I hightailed it to my car, and for the next hour, trembled in the corner of my apartment, staring down the Ghost of First Dates Past.
I shuddered as I thought about how Ted embodied every other horrifying first date I’d had over the past few years. The ones where I’d laugh and nod, asking question after question, arriving home exhausted and disappointed, my vocal chords atrophying from lack of use. I’d take off my make-up and high heels, picking peacock feathers off my dress – the same dress I’d second-guessed every day for a week.
I poured myself a pity glass of wine, just like I did back then, and remembered where I was four years ago.
Newly divorced. Like Ted.
Living alone for the first time in my life. Like Ted.
Starting a new job. Like Ted.
Craaap, I thought. Ted is ME. For a split second, it all came rushing back. I had been so scared. Sad. Self-absorbed. God. I wouldn’t pay to go back there.
And the tremors finally subsided.
Maybe I’ll give him a pass this time. What do you think?
Often when time passes, feelings fade, memories go fuzzy, and lessons learned take a backseat to everyday demands. One of the many curious things about undergoing a “past life regression” hypnosis session last month (yup, that’s totally a thing!) was finding that the very opposite occurred. The thoughts, smells, sights and sounds that I experienced during hypnosis have become hyperreal, and I’ve spent many long walks trying to squeeze every ounce of insight that I can from them.
Wanna hear what I’ve got so far? Oh good. I knew I had a blog for a reason.
LESSON 1 (of 3): It’s Okay to Want Less
In many ways, the two past lives I witnessed couldn’t have been more different. In one life, I was a woman, the other, a man. In one I was wealthy, the other poor. I hated my job one time, enjoyed it the next.
None of this mattered.
As both a wealthy Victorian woman visiting her grandmother in the English countryside and a poor-as-dirt laborer in rural Maine in the mid-20th century, the only thing that mattered to me was this: Being with my family, surrounded by nature. I longed for nothing more than the sight of those rolling hills and the water – except maybe a cup of tea and some James Joyce! No part of me was vying for a 4.0 GPA or learning yoga or reading self-help books. And I felt zero guilt about it. The pursuit of peace and pleasure was enough.
This was a powerful lesson. All I truly desire today is exactly the same – except now it feels devilishly indulgent. A simple life with fewer responsibilities? How dare I! This experience was a much-needed reminder to take a breath and remember that all of the accomplishments in the world are meaningless if I can’t enjoy what matters most. I don’t need to adorn this life with the trappings of success to have a successful life.
LESSON 2 (of 3): Why I REALLY Struggle with My Weight
I thought, between decades of dieting and multiple therapists, that I’d covered every possible reason I struggled with weight.
It wasn’t until I heard my “Higher Self” speak during hypnosis that a new idea took form: My weight was the physical manifestation of carrying others’ burdens. I had never allowed this theory to surface because I thought it made me sound like a self-righteous martyr.
“She tries to be like a mussel. Clean the water. It doesn’t work,” my higher self had said, speaking in third person. “She just wants everyone to be happy. She doesn’t have to be responsible for anyone [else’s happiness].”
How might I approach my relationship with food if I looked at it through this new lens? Would I speak up, set boundaries, and share more of my authenticself? The short answer? YES. It’s already happening! But I’ll confess: I haven’t changed overnight. The road ahead still looks pretty curvy (pun soooo intended). Nevertheless, I’m more optimistic than ever before that I’m dissolving a toxic pattern.
LESSON 3 (of 3): “If You’re Happy, You Will Save the World”
This is something else my higher self relayed midway through the session, and it strikes me as almost heartbreaking in its innocence. Wasn’t there some wise old (wo)man somewhere who said we can recognize the truth by its simplicity?
I’ve often heard people say that we’re on this earth to experience joy, and despite how things may appear on this blog, I often do a sh*tty job of it. Which links back perfectly to #1 on this list: It doesn’t take much to be happy (and THAT’S OKAY)!
Perhaps instead of living life like one giant checklist, I’d make a bigger, brighter impact on the planet I love so much by doing things daily that delight me (like using alliteration…check!).
Do these lessons resonate with you? Do you struggle with them like I do?
“I’ll have you lie down on the left side,” Dagny said as I followed her over to her bed. A shaman, she had explained, had told her that her own bedroom was the energy epicenter of her home. “I sleep on the other side.”
I gingerly sat on the quilted queen-sized bed. This isn’t weird at all.
“Do you want me to turn the fan off? Will it distract you?”
“Oh no, I sleep with a fan. I like it,” I assured her. Dear god, woman, are you trying to kill me? It was mid-morning at that point and, despite being in Maine, the temperature had already crept from unpleasant to swamp ass.
My heart and mind raced as Dagny took a seat in a small wooden chair beside the bed. As if reading my mind, she said, “Before you start recording [on your phone], I’m going to read you a passage I like to read to some of my more left-minded clients.” She flipped to a page in her binder and soon uttered words that put me at ease: “Just think of it like using your imagination…”
I can do that. I’ll just make it up. If nothing comes through, I’ll just make it up.
As she began to put me under hypnosis, speaking very softly, I pretended this was just like any other guided meditation I had tried in the last eight months. It was only later, upon listening to the recording, that I’d learn twenty minutes had passed by the time she said, ever so soothingly:
“Arriving here now is the most relevant time…arriving here now is the most necessary place. I want you to tell me the very first things that you see or the very first impressions that you have as you begin to understand where you are and what is happening around you.”
“It’s all white now,” I said. “But I saw a pick-up truck, on a road, with pine trees on both sides, and I was looking at it from up top. Like, floating above it. I feel like I was the dad. The father.” A lump rose in my throat and my lips and eyes twitched uncontrollably. “I was driving, and I, I…” I started to cry. “Didn’t come home.” I let out a heavy sigh.
I went on to describe a life in the 1950s-60s in a remote wooded area that looked a lot like Maine. I was in my 30s, I said, and “wasn’t healthy.” My lungs felt heavy. I had a wife and two kids, a 14-year-old boy and an 8-year old girl, and we lived in a small, rustic camp on the water.
I detailed my surroundings and it felt as though I was interpreting someone else’s dream, trying to filter the information. Why am I holding a spear in the water if it’s the 1960s? Why am I stacking these cinder blocks? Why is there such black smoke in the air? Why is the pick-up truck the first and last thing I remember?
“I’m driving to work,” I went on. In my mind’s eye the road just kept going and going, through the woods, over a concrete bridge, up a bumpy, unpaved hill. “It’s…it’s…FAR. I don’t want go. I don’t like what I do. I just want to be with my family. I don’t like anybody there. I don’t talk to anyone.” My eyes fluttered and filled with tears. “I’m not a man, like, these guys.”
“Mmm. What would you rather be doing?”
“Something quiet. Peaceful.”
“Reading. Stay home. See the water,” I took a deep breath. “Yeah. Be reading.”
“What kinds of things do you like to read?”
I paused for a long moment, and laughed. “I heard ‘James Joyce’…James Joyce, I like it. …I’ve never read James Joyce…me, Julie, I’ve never read James Joyce.”
I seemed to think I had left my family because I “didn’t take care of myself,” but couldn’t see how I died.
“Let’s move forward now,” Dagny said, and immediately I heard a very familiar sound.
“I feel like I’m riding backwards on a train. I feel, like, ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. I’m backwards,” I said.
“Okay, you’re backwards,” she replied, always softly encouraging me and repeating what I’d said. “Are you really riding on a train? Are you riding backwards on something? Could be a wagon?”
“Hmm. It was a train because I heard it. I’m not the guy anymore,” I said, feeling certain I was a woman now. I giggled. “He wouldn’t be on a train. He couldn’t afford it.
“It’s, like, 1920s,” I continued. “There’s a little dog. A little pug. I’m…going…to see my grandmother? Did you say 1912?” I’d asked, thinking I’d heard Dagny. “It’s 1912. I think.”
I described rolling English countryside and the grandmother I was going to visit. “She wears lace gloves. And a cameo.” I smiled broadly. “She looks very proper, but she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. She has her own way of doing things.”
“Where are you now?” Dagny asked.
“A buggy?” I said, again doubting and filtering the information. Is a buggy the thing with a horse? And if we were so wealthy, why didn’t we have a model T?
“Is anyone with you?”
“Someone’s driving,” I replied. “He’s like…he’s like…” I laughed at the words that were coming to me. “The help. …He’s very nice. I like him.”
Once again I described the setting in detail, along with what I did for a living (“I make things beautiful…I design rich people’s houses; they don’t know I have lots of money, too”), but couldn’t tell how I might have died. A deep, slightly impatient voice spoke from within me, using third person:
“She doesn’t want to see, so we can’t show her.”
With more gentle prompting from Dagny, I had a vision of falling off rocks, my stomach dropping. A latent fear came to life which I relayed still using third person: “She didn’t live long. Both times. Thirties,” I began to weep. “That’s what she’s scared of. Because she’s [in her] 30s [now].”
“She’s in her thirties now, and she’s worried about that,” Dagny whispered. “Right. Let’s ask your higher self, what is your greatest strength that she’s here to leverage, because she’s still here and you have alllll these possibilities of soul family and soul connection and choices, so, there’s no reason that she is dying—”
“She’s the light. She already knows this,” I said brusquely, inhaling deeply. “She’s very bright on the inside.” I paused for a long moment. “She wants everyone to be happy. To see how good it is. They’re very lucky, and they don’t know it.”
“We are all very lucky and we don’t know it, absolutely. So as her higher self, you are allllways showing Julie how very lucky we all are.”
“She doesn’t have to carry it…she doesn’t have to take, take it on. Everybody’s problems. She tries to be like a mussel. Clean the water. It doesn’t work.”
“Is that what the weight struggles are about?”
“Mmm,” I nodded.
“And what IS her mission?” Dangy went on. “Why is she here, right now, right now with Dagny, and right now in this lifetime—”
To show people love. Just BE happy. Just be happy! It’s easy. You don’t have to save the world. You just have to be happy. If you’re happy, then you WILL save the world.”
During the latter half of the session, a friend popped into mind.
“What do you see? What is your connection?” Dagny asked.
“We are the same. The same. We were two fish,” I said, speaking more softly than ever. “Two fish. Two big, big fish. Swimming side by side. Like Pisces.”
“I’m glad you get to see each other,” Dagny smiled.
“Like big, like trout. Like trout. Spotted?” I tried to make sense of what I seeing, laughing at what seemed so absurd.
“That was the beginning,” I sighed. As the words left my mouth, I felt their significance. The beginning of time, and the beginning of me, whatever and whoever that was.
“That was the beginning. Yup. And there have been many other times,” Dagny replied with ease. “Would it be helpful, with your higher self, if I asked your higher self, to do a body scan, and work on her physical self?”
Dagny spent the next five minutes running through the chakras of my body, slowly sending light and healing from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I felt waves of calm, blissful warmth course through my being, a concentrated spot of heat on my right hand, where I’d just experienced an eczema breakout. Over the course of the following 48 hours, my family watched in awe as my cracked and sore right middle finger healed on its own, without any of the bandages or medication I’d been using earlier that week.
Near the end of the session Dangy asked one more question:
“And so Julie really wants to know how she can love unconditionally?”
Last Wednesday I drove down a long, winding, forested road, glancing at Google maps and praying the cell phone service wouldn’t cut out. I wiped a sweaty palm on my pants and watched the mailbox numbers go mysteriously up, down, then back up again. It was almost 9:00am and another unusually balmy day in Maine, halfway through my week-long getaway from New Jersey.
I tried calling the number I’d jotted down, but the phone automatically hung up before it even rang. Sh*t. I should just turn around and go home. Right then, I spotted a mailbox that read St. John.
“HANG ON. HANG ON. Jules, I think you should keep this story to yourself.”
“Oh, C’MONNN, Jules, it’s SO COOLLLUH.”
“That’s exactly what you said about that bedazzled Justin Timberlake shirt.”
Hi. Welcome to the inside of my head. This is the conversation that’s been playing on a loop for the past week. I have SUCH A COOL STORY, but it’s… out there. In fairness, I did warn you -when I blogged about oracle cards and taking a “Meet Your Spirit Guides” class at Omega Institute– that things were gonna get WEIRD here on Go Jules Go.
If you’ve been reading lately, you know I’ve been exploring “metaphysical curiosities” in depth for the past year, deciding to come out of the woo-woo closet in March. I realized how many people are just as fascinated as I am, but nervous about dipping their toes into the mystical waters.
While in Maine (a.k.a. my future home) last week on vacation, I took things to a whollllle new level…
I turned down the gravel driveway, passing the mailbox marked St. John, and parked my car on the far right, not wanting to block the driveway. I had no idea how many people lived in this charming white house. I checked my face in the rearview mirror, grabbed my binder and headed towards the front door.
“Julie, welcome, welcome, it’s so nice to meet you!” A slim, smiling woman opened the door and gave me the kind of hug you’d offer an old friend. “Come in, come in.”
Oh hell. There’s no air conditioning? Seriously?!
“Dagny! So nice to meet you! I’m sorry I’m a few minutes late!”
Dagny offered me water and explained we’d be starting our 3+ hour session in her living room.
“So what brings you here?” she asked once we’d settled in, jotting down notes on a piece of paper she assured she’d give me before I left.
“WELL,” I said, tears springing to my eyes. I took a deep breath. “I guess things really started about two and a half years ago…”
“For over a year now, I’ve been…sensing things,” I said shyly. “Questions about ‘the other side,’ so many unexplainable coincidences, dreams and intuitive hits, things and people from the past that seemed to have risen from the ashes…”
“Mm-hmm. Yeah. Of course.” Dagny nodded and smiled. “So how about I tell you more about my process? After we talk for a while so I can get to know you and your history -and that could be a good hour- we’ll set your intention and review the questions you brought to ask your higher self. Then we’ll head upstairs and bring you into a light hypnosis and see what comes up.”
I nodded, unfazed. I had done my research.
“I guess I’m ultimately looking for a breakthrough – in any area of my life,” I continued. “A brand new way of seeing things. I’ve had my share of standard talk therapy, and still feel like I’m struggling with a lot of the same issues.”
Which is exactly what led me to her, Dagny St. John, an “intuitive soul reader” practicing out of her home in mid-coast Maine. We were in the midst of a Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique (QHHT) session and I was certain I’d never been more nervous in my life. Who does this? Have I really lost my mind? What if hypnosis doesn’t work on me? What if something disturbing comes through? What if, oh dear god, NOTHING CHANGES afterwards?
Three hours later, I left Dagny’s house in a blissed-out daze. I felt like I’d need days to process. Weeks. Months. Years.
“It’s fine, especially if you’re not looking for anything serious.”
My eyes darted back and forth between two women, a friend and a fellow partygoer, having one of those conversations that went from ‘Nice to meet you’ to ‘I’ve been in therapy for eight years’ in 7.6 seconds.
Frequenting such upstanding apps as eHarmony and Match had resulted in stories like this. And this. Annnnd this.
“Oh really? You would like the guy I just met a couple of months ago. Caramel skin, dark hair, green eyes…”
“Why didn’t you like him?”
“Too young for me, but he’s perfect for you.”
I watched the conversation between my friend and a complete stranger unfold, wondering if it would outlast the Prosecco supply.
“I’ll see if I can find his number.”
I blinked. Hang on. What just happened here? A stranger we’d met an hour ago was giving my friend the number of a stranger SHE met three months ago and… My head started to spin, not unlike when my girlfriends plan things.
Then I started to wonder… Was this really any less creepy than swiping your finger across a stranger’s likeness to indicate that you might want to share awkward conversation and unlimited breadsticks? Was this, in fact, a far more appropriate vetting system?
The next morning, the woman from the party called my friend.
“Hey, it’s Stranger Lady from last night! Great news! I found Stranger Guy’s number!”
Without a moment’s hesitation, my friend texted Stranger Guy with a few cute lines and a couple of photos of herself.
What do you think? Should we create an app for this?
“When you’re a kid, age matters a lot,” Babs, my mom, said the other day. We were lounging on her living room sofa killing time before her friends, Dick and Fern, came over for dinner.
Hang on. What’s that? You think I’m lying about their names being Dick and Fern? Would I lie about something like that? Babs even gave me permission to use their real names in this post! (Then again, Babs also gave me permission to paint my aunt’s house as a surprise gift…)
Dick and Fern have been friends with my parents since before bottled water was a thing.
“You know. If you’re seven and the neighbors are ten it’s a huge deal,” Babs went on. “Then you get into your 20s and it really doesn’t matter at all.”
She took a gulp of wine.
“Then it starts to matter again.”
She paused and gave me a look.
“Dick and Fern are a few years older than us so they’re in their 70s now,” Babs said. “And just look at this.” She whipped out her phone and showed me the text message that Fern had just sent.
“Late because of rain! At least she finally got a smart phone this year,” Babs went on. “Before that she was doing the texting where you had to hit the number keys over and over!”
“Yeah,” I replied. “It also seems like there’s get-off-my-lawn-seventy and I-AM-JUST-GETTING-STARTED-B*TCH-SEVENTY.”
This, of course, got me thinking of my own friendships. Had there ever been an age gap that suddenly became too pronounced? Is there ever a “cut off” when you can no longer relate, whether it’s on a surface level with cultural references, or emotionally based on various life stages?
So far, at 36, age has never been an issue in my friendships, though it’s still certainly bittersweet when they fade for other reasons: Distance, difference of opinion, or interests in chipmunks and priorities that no longer align.
My advice to Babs? Might as well stick it out. At least you’ll get to tell your favorite stories over and over.