Blogging, tiny living

Tiny Living vs. Living Small

go jules go_tiny living vs living small title graphic 23jan2019

It’s eight steps from my living room loveseat to the bathroom.

Seven steps from the bathroom to my bed.

Twenty-four steps -two flights down- from my kitchenette to the front door.

Over the past fourteen years, since graduating college, I’ve moved five times, had eight jobs, four broken hearts, one marriage, one divorce, run two marathons, lost and gained several hundred pounds, said goodbye to five loved ones (including one dog), written two books and 407 blog posts, gotten two advanced degrees, and traveled to three different continents.

Sometimes when things feel stale or stagnant, I review that list and remember: life is always changing. A notion that used to send me into the fetal position now puts a skip in my step. Thank god things are always changing.

Jenn-bday-Jules-Amelia-Bedelia
Otherwise I’d still be dressed like this.

No matter how many things we try to track and count, or how many boxes we tick on the Checklist of Life, we’ll never be able to control that one constant – change. Nor will we ever arrive at some magic moment, proclaiming, “Ah, okay, done now!”

When I moved to my 350-square foot apartment in November 2017, the only thing I was sure of was that one chapter was ending and another was beginning.

Jules-single-dollars
Also, that I’d save a butt-ton of these.

I was terrified, but determined. After all, if I wanted a different sort of life, I was going to need to do things, well, differently. Of course, I still placated myself with thoughts like, “If you hate it, Jules, you can leave whenever you want and go back to living with an actual oven.”

white-oven
Totally overrated. Photo credit

I needed to tell myself things like that because I still didn’t trust The Grand Unknown. I still didn’t really believe the old adage, “The path will appear when you take the first step.” I always wanted a Plan B, a back-up, something I could measure and rely on. So often we look for sure things and guarantees, favoring our logical, expensively-educated brains, while missing what I’m starting to believe is the entire reason we’re inhabiting these funny flesh sacks in the first place: to follow our hearts.

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Right, Darren Criss?

Who says our hearts are unreliable, anyway? Have you ever tried tackling a tough question by getting still, taking a few deep breaths, and sinking down into that space within your chest? That space that says: You are enough. You can do anything. Your dreams matter. You are loved.

Isn’t that the voice who should always dictate our next steps?

There are still many days where I straddle the line between my heart and my head. Not sure if that’s you, too? In my experience, it feels a little something like this: Hope vs. desperation. Giddiness vs. dread. Authenticity vs. fraud. Ease vs. restlessness. A life of seeming forward momentum and social media-worthy accomplishment vs. that huge part of you that just wants to scream:

“STOP!”

Do you ever imagine standing up in the middle of a busy day and doing just that?

Then you could walk five steps to the fridge, fill three water bottles, and take your one dog two flights of stairs down to your one car. You could drive hundreds of miles until you reached the infinite woods.

There, you could hike countless miles and relish innumerable sights and sounds. You could consider your endless blessings, remember your boundless spirit, and realize your limitless potential.

Because counting only matters when you’re living small.

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On second thought, the hike might have to wait.

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How do you deal with The Grand Unknown? (Hey, come out of that corner, you. It’s safe over here. I have bean dip!)

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Blogging

2019? Let’s get DEEP.

Go Jules Go 2019 Lets Get Deep title graphic_2JAN2019

In his most recent blog post, David Cain at Raptitude wrote about his year-long exercise of ‘going deep.’ Instead of creating new resolutions for 2018, he urged readers (and himself) to pick up abandoned projects and passions, to not buy anything new, or even necessarily seek new friendships, and instead revisit all of the resources already present in their lives. The results surprised him in ways he couldn’t have predicted at the onset.

Not only did Cain discover that fulfillment isn’t something ‘out there,’ he also resolved long-standing personal issues because of the “particular demand the pursuit of depth makes on us: we can’t go deeper in a given area without coming to terms with why we were never able to before.”

Reading his words, I couldn’t help but think about how we’ve all grown so accustomed to looking outside of ourselves for answers, to “treating ourselves” to something new and shiny when what we really need is a hug or a nap or a cry. Because of this, most of the time we don’t even realize we’re robbing the world of the best and brightest version of ourselves. As the brilliant Mrs. Frugalwoods put it, “I think the concept of ‘treat yourself’ underlies the belief –or insecurity– that we’ll never realize our deeply held dreams.” We know we’re unhappy, and the cure must be more stuff –new things, people, and resolutions– all of which allow us to avoid the fear inherent in chasing our heart’s deepest desires.

“We live in great danger of inadvertently keeping our most cherished pursuits, the ones that promise the most fulfillment,” Cain writes, “buried down there in the realm of ‘potential,’ where they’re safe from the real world and its limitations. In the meantime, we find other things to do –things that offer less meaning, but more assured outcomes– and we just get older.

We don’t want to put our hearts on the line if we don’t have to, and all the important things involve our hearts.”

Cain really struck a chord as I round the bend on another year filled with exciting, transformational, game-upping goals. I’ve spent the past couple of years making friends with my demons, figuring out how to transmute negative patterns, and deeply considering the kind of life I want to create – because in the end, everything that surrounds us is a result of what we’ve created: the thoughts, the actions, and the stories we tell ourselves.

Go Jules Go Georgia OKeefe museum Babs in frame Oct 2018
It’s all about how we frame things, right, Babs? (Georgia O’Keefe Museum, Santa Fe, NM, October 2018)

Who do I want to be, and what does her life look like? Who are her closest friends? How does she think, see, and feel? What are her daily habits?

Jules-Hamptons-Marathon-27Sep2014
Oh dear god, this is going to involve a lot of sweat, isn’t it?

Envisioning this ideal life has made it easier to set goals, yes, but also to set boundaries. If someone or something feels constricting and out of alignment with my dreams, guess what?

buh-bye-SNL

It hasn’t been easy. There have been tears, sleepless nights, and relentless self-doubt. But also miracles, deeper friendships, and a wellspring of hope I never knew existed before. As Cain put it:

“Going deeper means finally seeing what’s really going to come of [pursuing your dreams]. And that’s damn scary. Existentially scary. It is our one life, after all.”

I love this reminder that living a heart-centered life is scary A.F. the only way to fulfillment.

Go Jules Go vegan menu Asbury Park 1NOV2018
Life is like a menu: all the options can be vegan if that’s what you choose to see!

As a tribute to Cain’s advice, I thought I’d kick off Go Jules Go: 2019 Edition by plumbing the depths of the existential lessons I’ve begun to internalize over the past two years –ones I know I’ll come back to over and over again to truly appreciate their profundity– and briefly share them here.

“Life happens through you, not to you.” -Derek Rydall, Law of Emergence

“You cannot act in love and act in fear at the same time. You must choose between them.” -Gary Zukov

“Everyone’s opinion is right.” -Seth Godin

“That’s all anyone really needs. To know with sure conviction that the world is limitless, abundant, and strangely accommodating.” -Pam Grout, E-Squared

“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.” -Go Jules Go, woo-woo hypnosis session

Go Jules Go The Future sunset Santa Fe Oct 2018
Santa Fe, NM (October 2018)

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Happy New Year, my cherished Chipmunks! I can say with the confidence of Jessica Biel after Justin Timberlake proposed: 2019 is gonna be MAGIC!

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humor

SURPRISE! What I REALLY Got from My Masters Degree

What I REALLY Got from my Masters_GoJulesGo_titlegraphic_28NOV2018

‘Cause I don’t wanna lose you now, I’m looking right at the other half of me...”

I groaned, cursing my alarm. Wednesday. I quickly swiped my phone to silent. Even Justin Timberlake couldn’t convince me 6:15am looked good on a Wednesday.

Bleary-eyed, I got into the shower, wondering what work-appropriate pants might actually be clean and still fit. As the clock neared 7:00am, I started preparing my Commuter’s Survival Kit.

HUED-640-coffee

I opened the fridge and reached for the half and half, suddenly pausing.

I stood there for what felt like days, vivid scenes rushing to mind, clawing for air, demanding to know how I could have been so naive. Maybe I could just go back in time and pretend everything was “normal.” What was normal? Who was I, and why did that person suddenly feel like a stranger to the woman standing in the middle of the kitchen with a twisted expression on her face?

Just hours earlier, I had watched a documentary on Netflix about healthy eating. Or so I’d thought when I’d hit play.

Forks-Over-Knives
Photo credit

Instead, I’d gotten the awakening of a lifetime. My entire worldview was upended, as if learning that everyone and everything I’d ever known had been in disguise.

Earth-in-disguise
Hey! I’m the only one around here who gets to wear ‘stache glasses!

Puzzle pieces I’d never known I’d failed to connect suddenly formed a gruesome picture. And I was part of causing that gore.

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And this doesn’t even cover the half of it – like the cruelty. Credit

I poured a few tablespoons of creamer into my travel mug, throwing the remainder into the garbage.

That’s it. Never again.

At lunchtime I eyed the salad bar as though I’d never seen it before. My heart was racing. I felt scared. Alone. So if I don’t have the chicken, or the eggs, or the cheese…are those grains cooked with stock? Are there any non-dairy dressings?

I loaded a plate with greens, tofu, beans, and, Ooh! Nuts! That could work…

My internet browser exploded with new tabs. Vegan Recipes. Beginner Vegan. Why No Honey? Is Wool Vegan? Can I keep my leather hiking boots?

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Thankfully, I quickly stumbled upon resources like this one.

I felt like I was in The Matrix. Except instead of staring dreamily at Keanu Reeves, I was looking at everyone around me, wondering if I’d lost my mind. “They’re eating babies!” my new, red pill-swallowing brain shouted. “BABIES!”

Jules-in-the-Matrix

It was so profoundly disconcerting that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to function normally. (As if I was playing with a full deck to begin with!)

I spent the next month combating this dis-ease by learning everything I could about veganism, wondering how long it would take until someone caught on that I was ordering avocado rolls instead of my normal salmon sashimi. I had adopted the notion that no one liked vegans, and this latest epiphany triggered teenage Jules. What if no one wants to hang out with me anymore? What if everyone thinks I’m a judge-y a*shole?

I had been a vegetarian for all of my teen years, but by 19, had succumbed to latent peer pressure and returned to the Standard American Diet. At 34, I was terrified that I’d let that happen again.

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SAD, indeed! Photo credit

Credibility. I need credibility. And support. In one of the wisest decisions I’ve ever made (besides starting this blog, of course), I enrolled in a Masters degree program for Humane Education.

Essential Elements of Humane Ed
Photo credit

The Institute for Humane Education gave me everything I’d hoped it would and more. Because two and a half years later, I’m happy to report: My vegan flag flies loud and proud. And I promise – I’m not here to convert you.

But I am here for this:

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And this:

Goats

And this: 

I cannot overstate the impact going vegan has had on my life, nor the lightness of heart I feel at every meal, knowing that my decisions align with my values. The real epiphany, though? Realizing my choices matter. I matter.

You matter.

And we get the opportunity to express our true, loving, compassionate selves every day, through every action we take.

What a gift.

Jules-service-dog

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Have you ever had a Matrix-y moment?

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Blogging, Family Ties, I'm Going To Chop My Ear Off Any Day Now

What I’ve Learned from My Past Lives (yes, I did just say that)

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.

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Wanna hear what I’ve got so far? Oh good. I knew I had a blog for a reason.

Go-Jules-Go-title-graphic_What I've Learned from My Past Lives

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.

Maine-wine-sunset
Ahhhhh, that’s better.

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 authentic self? 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.

MORE VEGAN FOOD HACKS
It’s especially tough when you crush it in the kitchen like I do.

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!).

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And photoshopping myself next to Darren Criss, of course.

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Do these lessons resonate with you? Do you struggle with them like I do?

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