When an experience kicks up those old emotions -in my case, heartache, rejection and unworthiness- there’s so much I wish I could tell my younger self.
So I did.
Dear Younger Me,
Your first love has a sacred place in your unfolding. These wounds will heal, though the phantom pain will be, at times, very convincing. What an amazing gift to feel so much for another. Tap into this heartbreak and transmute those tears into the stuff that will fortify your soul. You are full and bright and beautiful.
You have this person to thank for showing you what you need from another: Someone who will be there for you in every moment and honor you as an equal. Someone who will strive to build you up as they build themselves up, too.
This person is an important part in strengthening your spirit, for the love you seek requires a heart that knows itself.
How else will you recognize its reflection?
Wiser Older Me
What did your first love teach you? What do you wish you could tell your younger self about it? (If this question makes you uncomfortable, please feel free to post pictures of dogs in costume instead.)
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?
“Do you think they’ll have coffee?” my sister asked, peering over the edge of a wide toll bridge that would take us past the Hudson River towards a small town in central New York state.
“I was just thinking the same thing!” I said, slapping the steering wheel. “We’ll have to ask as soon as we check in.”
After a two and a half hour car ride from our hometown in New Jersey, we arrived at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York on Friday afternoon, leaving plenty of time to have dinner before our weekend workshop began at 8:00pm.
Omega is a nonprofit, mission-driven, and donor-supported educational organization. For more than 40 years we’ve been a pioneer in holistic studies – helping people and organizations integrate personal growth and social change, moving beyond ‘the way it is’ toward ‘the way it can be.'” –Omega Institute website
We wound through bumpy, forest-lined roads until we pulled into the main driveway. A tan, golden-locked young man greeted us with an easy smile and glazed-over eyes.
“Hey there! Staying here or are you a commuter?”
“Commuter,” I replied.
“Right on. You can go ahead and park in either of these two rows. Have a good one.”
When we’d spot him later that evening, we’d find him still perched at his station, but holding a guitar. We parked the car in the gravel lot and joined a long line in front of a building at the main entrance.
Eventually receiving welcome instructions and a map, we moseyed uphill towards the dining hall.
“I feel like I’m in Dirty Dancing,” I said, gazing at the casually dressed men and women wandering through Omega’s plentiful cabins and gardens. There was something serene about the timeless energy surrounding us. Or maybe it was just the lack of wifi.
As calm and quiet as the campus seemed, the institute was fully booked for the weekend and the food hall was hopping, hundreds of people lined up at the (mostly) vegan buffet.
Commuters like us (we were staying at an off-campus AirBnB) had to pay a mandatory $110 “commuter fee” on top of the workshop registration fee in order to enjoy the food and campus amenities. (Coffee, the staff assured us at registration, would be available in the morning, along with milks made of everything from hemp to rainbows.)
We filled our plates and fruitlessly searched for the vodka station balanced our cups awkwardly as we tried to find a table outside.
All of the tables outside were large enough to accommodate at least eight people; luckily, I’d spotted the phrase “communal dining” in the brochure and had spent the prior two weeks practicing my fake niceties.
“What workshop are you here for?” I asked the man across from me, wondering how many chanterelle mushrooms I could shove into my mouth between questions.
“Psychic Detective,” he replied, spearing a chickpea and giving me the kind of bright-eyed, smiling response usually reserved for preschool teachers and cannibals. “How about you?”
I inhaled dramatically before replying with jazz hands, “Your Spirit Guides Await!”
He nodded as if I’d just said “the sky is blue” and we went on to cover all of the other usual platitudes for the next hour before finding an excuse to leave. The question he never asked, and that I imagine you’re wondering at this stage:
What the f&@% are you doing here?”
I blame meditation. After just a few short months of daily meditation, my sister and I found ourselves exploring other metaphysical curiosities, from oracle cards to crystals to chakra-balancing. Poking around these avenues ignited a spark in both of us that felt too intriguing to ignore.
With time to spare before our workshop began, my sister and I made our way down the hill towards the community lake, passing several people lounging in hammocks. We plopped down in two empty chaise lounges by the water and watched a few kayakers drift lazily in the distance. One of the staff members raked the sand in front of the water for a solid fifteen minutes, a concentrated frown on her face.
“Do you think she misunderstood the term ‘Reiki’?” I asked at one point.
My sister rolled her eyes at my pun and answered, “Do you think people take the kayaks out just to smoke pot?”
Neither of our questions were answered because we spent the rest of the weekend sitting barefoot in a small, brightly lit room with one instructor and eighteen strangers, meditating and channeling spirit guides, angels, and for one unlucky classmate not used to a plant-based diet, farts.
Elizabeth Harper, a walking fairy our instructor, explained in a lilting British accent that we all have one main spirit guide with us throughout our lives, along with one main guardian angel, but you might have other spirit guides with you for specific life events or goals. You can tap into these all-knowing, all-loving energy forces at any time, most especially through meditation. I would tell you more, but apparently I can make a lot of money offering this kind of instruction.
So, did I receive any meaningful guidance or insight throughout the weekend? Yes.
Did one of my spirit guides look like Zac Efron? Yes. Did I love not stressing about finding vegan food to eat? Yes. Did I mention the farter every chance I got? Yes. Would I go back?
Because…well, we’ll get to that. First let me explain what it is.
Basically, The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program whose goal is to unleash your creative kraken.
Each week, you read one of twelve chapters and follow the assignments and prompts, all the while committing to regular daily and weekly exercises. So when I say I’ve “read” it thrice, I mean I’ve DONE it thrice. (…That’s what she said.)
See that? Yeah, that was the result of one of the trademark assignments in The Artist’s Way, from one of my weekly “artist’s dates.” On these artist’s dates, you must go do something that delights you, and you cannot -I repeat, cannot- bring anyone with you.
That particular week, back in 2000, I thought taking photos of “typical New York City life” in black and white was absolutely essential. I was 18 years old, boldly hopping the train from suburban New Jersey and traveling one whole hour into Manhattan. I wore all black, feeling above on top of the whole world…until someone my age commented, “Where ya going? A funeral?”
I brushed it off (except for the part where I vividly remember that comment nearly two decades later), got the film developed, framed that shit, and thought, Here we go, I. Am. An. Artist.
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During my most recent attempt with The Artist’s Way, in my late 20s, I found out the book had become a trilogy.
Yeah. So. Thirty-six weeks of waking up at 5:30am every day to squeeze in 30 minutes of stream-of-consciousness journaling before driving an hour to my day job so I could still beat traffic.
Each and every time I read did The Artist’s Way, I found some of that magical “flow.” I experienced the synchronicity that Julia Cameron, the author, loves to talk about.
But I kept sweeping away what seemed like, on some level, a pesky mouse trying to cross the threshold into my just-fine-thank-you-very-much home. (And sorry to anyone with brooms, and to mice everywhere; I honor and respect you and don’t know what I’m allowed to use as metaphors anymore. But since I’m a) a woman, b) a person who has swept things, and c) vegan, I’m going to go ahead and assume I get a pass on that last one.)
Obviously, the book wasn’t the problem.
I’m 36 now. So that’s eighteen years and three attempts with The Artist’s Way, collectively adding up to, what? A little over a year of prioritizing my creativity? And I wonder why things stagnate?
Don’t listen to your [relative/friend/colleague/inner critic/cat], Chipmunks.
Being an artist is hard work.
And it’s every bit as valuable as whatever else is taking up your time.
Even if you still can’t seem to get anyone to buy your black and white photographs…
Have you read The Artist’s Way (or anything similar)? Did it help you?
Last Sunday, the stars aligned and three bloggy universes collided (much like my car with many, many rocks and trees).
Peg (Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings), Darla (She’s A Maineiac) and I stumbled across each other’s blogs eons ago, back when we were still trying to figure out how you posted the whosewhatsit up by the whatchamathingy. I’d been lucky enough to hang out with Darla before, but this time we upped the ante and met Peg in Portland, where she was visiting with family.
Any Catfish fan knows that meeting an online friend can go terribly, awfully, heinously awry – but not with these two. They’re every bit as hilarious, warmhearted and adorable as their words. Last weekend we were just a gaggle of blogging vets, inhabiting the same fresh Maine air, trying to fit four years worth of conversation into two short hours.
In fact, rather than try to cram all of the goodness into one post, I think I’ll let the two of them explain the rest. (Click on their logos below to check out all of the great things they have to say about me their accounts of our meet-up!)
It’s been 8 months and 11 days since my last post.
No tall tale explaining my absence could rival the truth. The past year was riddled with changes so epic, gains and losses so staggering, that I even considered shaving my ‘stache.
Clearly, I couldn’t figure out how to strike the perfect bloggy balance after a job layoff and divorce, so I did what any normal person would do – I went into hiding I sweat. A lot.
(In case you’re wondering, that was the Hamptons Marathon last September. 26.2 miles and all I got was a shitty medal and a stale bagel. Seriously? I drove all the way to Long Island for this? Seriously?!)
Now that the dust has settled, and now that I have dating stories too good not to share, I think it’s time.
It’s time to say hello to Go Jules Go 2.0: The Hot Mess Edition.
You’re welcome in advance.
So how the hell have you been?! Peg? Darla? Rache? B-Man? Anyone still out there?
We were originally going to go Friday-Sunday, but decided to leave on Thursday afternoon so we’d have a full day with Darla while her two adorable kiddos were in school.
Without traffic, it’s a 6 hour drive from New Jersey.
We took Rachel’s car, agreeing to split the driving time. Did I mention her car is new? And if there’s a pothole, I’ll hit it?
Somewhere between New York and Connecticut, we (and by we I mean me) hit 37 potholes. And I’m not talking little divots in the pavement.
On Rachel’s high-tech dashboard, we watched the air pressure in the driver’s side tire plummet.
By the time we reached Boxborough, Massachusetts, we had a flat. Rachel pulled over while I surreptitiously checked her fuel tank. Plenty to keep the car running and heated for at least an hour or two. Whew.
“I don’t know how to change a tire. Do you?” she asked with a laugh.
“I’m from New Jersey. I don’t even know how to pump my own gas,” I replied. “But I just renewed my AAA membership!”
In under 30 minutes, a tow truck arrived. The driver got the spare out of the trunk and started rooting around while Rachel and I bounced up and down trying to keep warm.
“I can’t find the key,” he announced.
It took us much longer than it should have to understand that tires have unique “keys” to unscrew the lug nuts so no one steals them. The spare in your car is supposed to come equipped with its matching key.
We tore apart the car, but alas, no key. Thanks, Toyota.
Eventually, he said our only option was to go to the nearby dealership and have them change the tire – when they opened. In the morning.
Oh, did I mention Rache had 20-inch fancy rims?
“I’m so sorry I broke your car!” I wailed for the first of many times.
After the tow truck driver unloaded the car at the dealership, he said he could drive us to the nearest hotel. Nevermind that we had two non-refundable rooms waiting for us a mere two hours away in Maine.
“Do you have anywhere for us to put our luggage?” we asked.
“Just your laps.”
Our essentials were scattered between six bags, not including my swinging 1970s, fully-loaded cooler, which took up half the back seat. I grabbed my laptop and two bottles of champagne. “Screw it,” I said to Rachel. “This is all I need.”
When we arrived at the hotel, Rachel explained our predicament to the front desk. The man at the counter replied deliberately, “You have a coupon, riiight?” He nodded slowly.
“Um…yeeees,” Rachel said, catching on.
When we saw the receipt: 50% off! What’s more, our room overlooked a funky indoor pool, white lights and palm trees (you go on with your bad self, Holiday Inn), so we opened the balcony sliders, and more importantly, the champagne, and toasted to the kindness of strangers.
Rachel called the dealership at 8am the next morning, and they finally got back to us with the verdict two hours later.
“It’s not just a flat. Your rim is damaged beyond repair.”
“Of course it is,” Rachel replied.
“And since you have 20-inch ones, we’d have to custom order a replacement. It wouldn’t be here until Monday.”
“So…my only options are to wait until Monday…or get 4 new 18-inch rims and tires?”
“Correct. And it’d probably cost the same either way.”
She covered the mouthpiece. “I knew. I knew when we got that car with those friggin’ rims…” She spoke into the receiver, “I guess I’ll have to get four new tires and rims, then. How long will that take? …Okay.”
“I’m so sorry!” I cried.
“Jules, it’s not your fault. I hit them, too,” Rachel reassured me, gracious as ever. (It was totally my fault.)
Turns out they had to order the ‘regular’ rims from a nearby dealer and couldn’t start work until 1pm.
They gave us a complimentary rental car, and we killed time at a local diner.
At 3pm, they gave us the good news: “Almost done.”
At 4pm: “We just realized we have to put all of the tire censors back on. It’s going to be another hour.”
5pm: “Okay, just finishing the paperwork.”
5:02pm: “Our computers just froze.”
5:30pm: “Let me give you the damaged tire and rim. Oh, wait, it’s filthy, we need a bag. Hang on.”
5:35pm: “We can’t find any more bags.”
5:45pm: Finally, FINALLY on our way. “Good thing we left Thursday night.”
7:00pm: Reach Maine.
7:30pm: Darla texted. “I can’t get out of my driveway. It’s a sheet of ice.”
That’s right. At last we were in Maine, 24 hours behind schedule, and NO DARLA.
But there was lobster. Lots and lots of lobster.
Saturday morning, another text from Darla: “I still can’t get out!!”
So Rachel and I shuffled around the icy streets of Freeport alone, waiting for the temperature to climb above freezing.
At one point, it was so slippery, a gift shop owner reached out a hand while holding the door, towing us inside. Later, when we peered longingly into Freeport Chowder House, the man inside waved us in.
“Are you open?” we asked.
“Not for two hours, but I never turn down customers,” he replied. “I don’t have the fryer going yet, but what do you want? Lobster roll?”
Rachel and I looked at each other. “YES.”
It was noon on Saturday before we saw Darla, but she was worth the wait.
Despite the many snafus, this li’l trip north had so many heart-warming moments, I wouldn’t trade it for anything would totally trade it for another 10am lobster roll.
P.S. – I even learned how to pump my own gas!
Since the word count on this post is already as atrocious as the potholes on Route 15,I hope you’ll head over to Rachel’s Table and She’s A Maineiac to read more about our adventures!
Have you ever had any vacations that didn’t go, ah, according to plan?