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The Power of Panic

Go Jules Go title graphic The Power of Panic 29APR20

“No, I won’t go! I can’t go! I’ll do anything!”

As we neared the sprawling, single-story, brick building, the butterflies in my stomach morphed into fire-breathing dragons, clawing at my insides, tearing through my heart, desperate to escape. My skin felt clammy and I started to sob.

“Please don’t make me go!”

My mom turned her right blinker on, steering our blue Dodge minivan towards the dead end street just before Terrill Middle School.

Terrill Middle School
That architecture’s enough to scare anyone. Photo credit

“Just calm down. Breathe. We’ll take a minute here.”

We were living in some nightmarish middle school version of Groundhog Day. Each morning was the same. We’d agree to drive through Burger King for an egg and cheese “Croissan’wich,” and as I lost myself in the familiar comfort of melted American cheese and processed pastry, I’d feel certain I could make it to my 6th grade classes without incident.

Burger King Egg_and_Cheese_Croissanwich
Spoiler alert: It didn’t work. Photo credit

I can’t remember what triggered the first panic attack. In fact, I don’t remember anyone even using the phrase “panic attack” to describe what was going on. All I knew was that I was a chubby, sensitive, soccer playing 11-year-old, who, every time she approached her new middle school, succumbed to sheer terror.

Jules-Shadow
Much like my new dog, Shadow, every time I tried to “love” him.

My parents and the well-intentioned administration tried everything to get me to go to class. They sent me, a gold star-covered Honor Roll student, to the principal’s office (where I was both impressed by his en suite bathroom and horrified that he seemed to have used it right before I was sentenced to sit with him). They made me take IQ tests that I was sure I failed, arranging red cubes on a counselor’s tiny desk.

rubix cube wrong
But see, I KNOW that’s wrong. So. Genius! Photo credit

Finally, they made me sit in the guidance counselors’ conference room, where they closed the heavy tweed curtains so I couldn’t look out onto the courtyard at the students passing through windowed corridors, oblivious to the girl trapped by her own fear. I wasn’t allowed to read, write, draw, nap, or do anything except sit in that empty room. They thought if they took away my one true love –books– I might finally relent.

Baby-Sitters Club books
Well, Jules, let’s see how long you’ll last without knowing STACEY’S TRUTH.

“Ha,” I thought. “I’ll sit here until I can vote if it means I don’t have to walk those halls…with those jerks…”

The prior year, I had had my first real encounter with The Mean Girls. The group who’d once been my ride or die squad turned on me for reasons I couldn’t fathom at the time, going so far as to arrange a fake shopping date to buy the latest toy, only to leave me standing in the store, alone, next to an empty shelf where the toys had been (the girls had bought them all before I showed up). Later, I realized my gap-toothed smile, big belly, and questionable fashion choices didn’t jive with their burgeoning popularity.

gojulesgo-kid-Halloween-1993
Huh. I don’t get it.

My parents sent me to therapy, where I also sat silently, daring the therapist to figure out what was wrong with me. How could she know what I didn’t even know? The entire year unfolded like this, and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been on my parents.

“You have to cut this shit out and go to school!” my father, a well-respected educator himself, shouted one night after finally snapping. He threw something down the hall in my general direction while I cowered on the ground. I’d never seen him lose it before. Didn’t they all know that if I could just fix it, I would?

Pop-Jules-Burger-King
Let’s just go back to Burger King and EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY.

My heart goes out to that little girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders. After having several panic attacks in my adult life, I finally realized that the source of my fear was simply the fear itself. Anyone who’s ever had a panic attack knows that you’ll walk through fire before facing the ‘thing’ that triggered the panic in the first place – however irrational that may look to the outside world. Most adults describe the feeling as “being sure [they were] going to die.” How the hell is an 11-year-old supposed to cope with that?

jules-impossible-burger
Well, ha ha. At least none of this led to an unhealthy relationship with food.

That year shaped the rest of my young life. Thanks to those unrelenting panic attacks, I missed most of 6th grade and attended only two hours of high school. When I was 16, I got my GED and started working full-time at a local independent bookstore.

Jenn-bday-Jules-Amelia-Bedelia
Finally! A place that sees how cool I am! Hey, look how cool I am!

Now, as every corner of the world swirls with uncertainty, grief, and fear, my inner 11-year-old nods, holding out her small hand, wanting to offer the only comfort she can.

I know how you feel.

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If you’re looking for courage, camaraderie, and/or inspiration during these unprecedented times, I hope you’ll consider joining me live this Friday, May 1, 2020 (5:00-6:00pm PST / 8:00-9:00pm EST) for a free, interactive Zoom seminar!

https://zoom.us/j/96166072219

Save Me From Myself Seminar FB sample ad 3

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PSAs

5 Lessons Learned From Just 10 Minutes of Daily Meditation

I’ve been meditating for ten minutes a day for about three months. This makes me, and I’m shocked I have to explain this to you, an expert.

Why meditation? Why now? It seemed like I couldn’t turn on a podcast without hearing people sing meditation’s praises, and I was really curious to see if it would affect my overall outlook. Besides, it’s nice to mix things up once you realize most of your waking hours are spent dealing with unwanted hair.

Jules-meditation
That’s a lot of surface area.

I was pretty amazed to notice a difference in just one week, especially because most of the ten minutes were spent thinking, “Am I doing this right?” (Spoiler alert: You are.) I felt calmer, lighter, and happier, and all I’d really done was sit on the sofa, eyes closed, hands in my lap, listening to nature sounds on YouTube. Every time my mind would wander, I’d bring it back to my breath.

What was even more helpful than breathing deeply was doing a body scan, checking in with each part of my body. Most days, my shoulders and neck screamed once I paused to listen – a testament to my terrible posture and long hours in front of a computer. I also realized, on days when I felt most rushed, the anxiety seemed to pool in the middle of my stomach. After a few weeks, I began to understand that that was where my anxiety always lived.  It was startling to realize that I went almost 36 years without knowing that.

What really made me think these meditation evangelists might be onto something, though, was when I had a completely uncharacteristic reaction to someone saying something rude to me about a month into meditating. In the first instant, I had my normal response – horror, indignation, hurt. But just one second later, I burst out laughing. This bubble of pure joy erupted as I saw the absurdity of their behavior. This person’s comment (or more specifically, their tone), had nothing to do with me. A moment later, they were laughing with me.

That’s it, I thought. I’m sticking with this meditation sh*t for good.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase the linked product, at no additional cost to you. I only ever link to products that I truly love. Like this.

5 Lessons Learned From Just 10 Minutes of Daily Meditation

1. You’ll Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.

Ten minutes is a long time when you’ve got Twitter to check and Wheat Thins to eat. And once you get past those impulses, you might start (gasp) feeling even more things. Things you might not want to feel. You might relive moments you’d wish would stay buried somewhere in your parents’ basement along with those Koosh ball earrings. Like the results of this past election. Don’t stop. Don’t get up. Just keep breathing. You’re building a muscle that no CrossFit gym can ever provide.

2. This too shall pass.

If you’ve gotten past number one, a funny thought might occur to you: Everything is going to be okay. As you learn to live and breathe in the present moment, everything else becomes superfluous. You realize no matter how anxious or desperate you might feel in any one moment, it will change. Meditation helps you practice bridging that gap between feeling and action before you race to mask your emotions with the aforementioned Twitter and Wheat Thins.

3. Nothing is perfect.

Not even the dog who decides to loudly munch his kibble (probably to make sure you don’t get to it first) just when you start to meditate. Your inner critic will vie for your attention as soon as you even start to think about meditating. What’s the point? You’re doing it wrong. Ten minutes can’t possibly make a difference. You’re definitely doing this wrong. Just remember: The amount you resist meditation is a direct correlation to the amount it can help you.

And if 10 minutes a day sounds overwhelming? Try 5, or even 1. I picked 10 because it was the amount, for me, that I knew I couldn’t talk myself out of. Anything is better than nothing. Dan Harris, the ABC News guy behind 10% Happier, reminds me of that on his podcast [that I’m now addicted to] every week.

4. It’s all about me.

I probably should have warned you about this upfront, but something very disturbing will start to happen if you carve out ten (or five or one) minute(s) a day to just be. You will start to just be you. All that is gloriously and wonderfully you, without any distractions. As you let those thoughts and feelings come and go without judgment, you’ll start to feel an energy flow through you, and that energy feels a lot like love.

5. It has nothing to do with me.

The best and worst thing about loving yourself? Only you can do it.* And once you do, you’ll realize all of the negativity in the world can’t touch you, because it has nothing to do with you.

*That’s what she said.

Uncle-Jesse-Groomed-26Sep12
Go ahead. Just try to meditate.

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Have you tried meditating? What do you think?

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Blogging

The Ballsiest Thing I’ve Ever Blogged About

bbwGrab your Valium and vodka, Chipmunks, because today we’re getting brutally honest over on the fantastic blog, Black Box Warnings.

Black Box Warnings is a collective of bloggers who share their personal stories about mental and physical health, parenting, daily tribulations, and life’s little moments.

Disclaimer: This guest post is a departure from what you normally see on Go Jules Go. (You’ve been Black Box Warned!) Thanks again to Le Clown and Melanie for the opportunity!

Click here to read the post

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