I stared at the form on my lap, heart racing. Was my handwriting even legible?
I hadn’t been planning to fill out such a form so soon, but as had been the case with most things recently, an opportunity had arisen out of the blue. In fact, the minute I had decided to take inspired actions towards my dream life, chance meetings and synchronistic events tumbled forward like coins from a lucky slot machine. The more I acknowledged and embraced them, the more followed – all like little winks from the universe.
Let it be known, however, that stepping down Fate’s path isn’t always easy, even when all of the arrows are neon pink and screaming your name.
Usually after I acknowledge a coincidental opportunity, panic sets in and I think of all of the seemingly logical reasons to stay firmly planted in The Known. Then, a familiar internal battle begins: C’mon, Jules. This is how this works. If you want a different life, you have to do things differently. DO NOT LET FEAR WIN. This has been on your bucket list for fifteen years!
I took a deep breath and handed in my form to the spiky-haired woman behind the counter.
With that gesture, my tight, sweaty grip on Control released by another inch, allowing my frenemy, Flow, to take over.
I’m really doing this. At 36 years old, I’m really letting a 5-foot-2 man named “Pop” drive a needle through my nose at 6pm on a Thursday. What are his qualifications? Did he go to school for this? Why does he want to stab women with sharp objects? Wow, he really does seem excited about this…
After marking my nose with a purple pen -twice, to get it juuuust right- Pop told me to close my eyes and take a deep breath.
“Wow, that was a good one!” he said.
“I’ve been doing yoga,” I replied. “Is it in?”
“Well, the needle is.”
I clenched the sides of the chair and decided, for what seemed like the 20th time in two minutes, not to pass out.
Pop deftly finished up and then dabbed a tissue at the corner of my left eye.
“Everyone always sheds a tear. Here, have a look!”
He handed me a mirror and I smiled, surprised.
“It’s hardly even red!”
Normally prone to rashes at the slightest irritant (or out of thin air), it was as though my body had been waiting for this new accessory. Within two hours, it seemed like it had always been there. Every time I glanced in the mirror, I felt like I was seeing the real me.
The great part about doing things that scare the pee out of you is that it DOES get easier each time. And I’m now something of an expert at homemade saline solution.
…Oh, what’s that? You wanted to see a picture? I didn’t take any of th—
I’m so excited to share all I’ve learned via The Vegan Dollar’s forthcoming YouTube channel, where I’ll review hacks and practical tips, and talk about the mind-blowing lessons I’ve internalized when it comes to spending, saving and turning the status quo on its ugly little head.
Do I know what I’m doing? Not really. Does it feel “too soon” to take the leap? Absolutely. Am I scared? Um, YES. Do I let those things stop me anymore?
HECK TO THE NO.
At the risk of sounding saccharine, it’s been both a bumpy and beautiful road to get to a place where I feel comfortable honoring my soul’s gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudging, and through The Vegan Dollar, I hope to empower others to explore and actualize their dream lives.
Starting March 13th, Uncle Jesse and I hit the open road. While there are so many exciting unknowns ahead, I DO know the coming months will include…
Anything you want to see me cover on The Vegan Dollar? What does chasing your dreams look like?
The tail end of 2018 saw a slew of surprises, leading me to believe that 2019 is bound to bring in more of The Unexpected. AND I EXPECT IT TO BE AWESOME.
To celebrate this, I thought it would be fun to relive December’s unexpected events and my surprising takeaway from each:
I got my friend Janeen a “1-hour medicine healing ceremony” session for her birthday because she’s even kookier than I am. On a lovely Saturday in mid-December, we headed into New York City to get our crystal-woo-woo on. The shop was located on the 5th floor of a building in Greenwich Village.
We spent the first five minutes ringing the bell and asking the construction workers next door how to get in. Eventually, they pointed to a creepy stairwell and we ascended 8,000 flights to our destination.
Once inside a small, fragrant room, an attractive woman began ‘reading the collective energy’ of the 12 ladies forming a circle around her. (“Ma’am, I think you’re picking up ‘sweat’ and ‘confusion.'”) We then laid down on heated mats, nestled under blankets, while she chanted and waved incense, carefully stepping between our legs. Just as I was starting to relax, eyes closed and breathing deeply, she whacked my chest with a large, dried palm leaf.
Surprise Takeaway: Never assume you understand the definition of the word “healing.”
The following weekend, my sister drove me over to Babs’ (mom’s), anticipating our “surprise early Christmas present” from Babs.
“What do you think it’ll be?” my sister asked.
“It’s either strippers or a vegan cooking class,” I replied. “Not that I’ve given this any thought. And you know what I just realized yesterday?” I paused before blurting, “Mom and Pop didn’t really do anything to celebrate me just getting the Masters. I feel like a jerk saying this, but I would have thought they’d want to go out to dinner or something...”
My sister and I were still talking about this as I opened my parents’ front door.
I was suddenly surrounded by friends and family, champagne, and gobs of gifts.
Surprise Takeway: You are always loved so much more than you think you are.
I wasn’t going to blog about this since the idea is to stay anonymous, but this was so much fun that I feel like I have to tell you to try it, too (especially if you can rope in some kiddos)…
To round out the end of 2018, I actually won money from one of the scratch-offs that my family loves to give each Christmas. Chyeahhh!
I took my big, fat $50 winnings, got a bunch of $5 bills, and then my nephew and I wrote encouraging note cards and left each $5 bill and a card all around town for people to find [in Ziploc bags lest Mother Nature not cooperate].
We’re definitely going to make it a new tradition. Here’s one of my 15-year-old nephew’s cards – can you see why I couldn’t keep this to myself?!
Surprise Takeway: It’s really, really fun to give away money, even when you’re worried about never having enough of it.
The friend I’m about to feature is one of my nearest and dearest. Jenn and I met many moons ago, at my first “real” job at a little local book shop, and I recently realized we’ve been friends for more than half my life.
Jenn has the kind of talent that makes me feel like Will Ferrell in Elf when he realizes Santa is coming to Gimbel’s.
“I have two tickets to an acapella Christmas show at at NJPAC on Dec 1 @ 8pm. Any chance you’d go?”
Longtime readers know “anything”+ “acapella” elicits the following response from me:
Based on all of the times Babs and I had been to college acapella performances, I figured an NJPAC-worthy show would be Glee meets Pitch Perfect. I hoped they’d cover Mariah Carey, maybe a little Jackson 5, and my all-time favorite, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
“This is going to be so fun!” we squealed over Sangria on Saturday night, the show now only an hour away. As the clock neared 8pm, we scooted past two blue-haired ladies, took our seats and opened the program.
“You said you’ve heard them before?” I whispered to Babs.
“I think so,” she replied. “On the radio.”
I looked at the song list and back at Babs, eyes as wide as Christmas saucers.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed, a hush fell over the crowd, and twelve men in full-on penguin suits (not the fun kind) solemnly formed a semi-circle, singing at an octave they probably could have heard in whatever country the decidedly-NOT-Mariah-Carey song originated.
Tears of laughter streamed down my face and my shoulders shook as I tried not to make a sound.
“I’M SO SORRY,” Babs whispered, and I snorted audibly.
Trapped in our aisle until intermission, we counted down the somber, unrecognizable songs one by one, each featuring a soloist who, while talented, sang higher than seemed safe.
As soon as the last la Navidad was warbled, we ran out of there faster than my mascara. Did I mention Stephen Colbert was interviewing Meryl Streep on the stage next door?
“Shut Your Neck, I Mean, Face Right Now” (Exhibit 2 of 3)
This next story really needs no introduction. Here’s the message I received from my manager last Friday:
“I Manne-CAN’T Believe It” (Exhibit 3 of 3)
Last Wednesday morning, I stepped into the elevator at work and secretly played my favorite “I Wonder What Floor S/He’s Getting Off On” game. As usual, I correctly predicted another “8th floor.” (When the purse matches the shoes, or the dress socks are festively patterned, it’s definitely an 8th floor.)
This time, though, when the elevator doors opened, I spotted something…unusual. A woman, sitting in a chair near the coffee machine, frozen in place. Her hair had a strange, dull luster and she stared blankly into the distance.
Is that a…is she a…?
Yes. It was a mannequin. (Excuse me, “pulse-challenged,” as we’ve been coached to say by our Diversity & Inclusion team.) Enjoying Starbucks and playing Candy Crush like any normal employee at 8am on a Wednesday. She and I proceeded to have a lengthy conversation about “the 7th floors,” and when I returned to my own floor, I asked everyone I could find:
“Did you know the robots have already taken over?”
“I think it’s a decoy,” Karla replied, scratching her new neck tattoo. “Like the fake dog cut-outs they put in fields to keep geese away. They want to stop us from going to the 8th floor and stealing the good coffee.”
That’s a solid theory, Karla. But if I need to start updating my resume, you’ll let me know, right? …Right?
“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.
“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?”