How long has it been since we talked? …Three weeks?!
I’m so sorry. My pie plate hath spilleth over lately.
Between training for a half marathon, flying to NJ to surprise Babs for her birthday, dating, job interviews (…hang on, are those last two redundant?), helping throw Bend’s first Vegan Holiday Bazaar, filming for The Vegan Dollar, and getting ready to move to a new apartment…
…this poor little blog has been left to collect dust.
Also this.And by that I mean work until you die.
COME ON, JULES. Get the penne on the spaghetti or WE ALL LOSE.
Featuring my old blog name, goguiltypleasures.com.
No one wants to see this.
Jules at an ‘NSync concert; circa 2000.
Yeah… me neither…
And after all we’ve been through…
This flurry of recent activity has me thinking about that third date where, instead of kissing me, he gave me part of a giant zucchini to take home “life’s inflection points,” as one of my friends calls it. Those crossroads we all hit and know -sometimes with certainty, oftentimes not- our next move could change the course of our entire lives.
Six years ago, almost exactly, I made the painful decision to get a divorce from the only man I’d ever dated. At the same time, I was laid off and selling my home; everything I thought I wanted dissolved seemingly overnight. What I couldn’t know at the time was that that difficult choice laid the foundation for a life filled with authenticity, genuine connections, and endless compassion.
Doing something that went against the grain awoke the fiercely independent thinker I didn’t realize had been lulled into complacency. Over the following years, I made dozens of other eyebrow-raising decisions, each one uncovering The Real Jules.
Six years ago, I never could have imagined that that one tough decision would ultimately lead to living my dream life – a life designed by listening to that oh-so-quiet, but ever persistent, inner nudging that says, “Remember who you are.”
Now who’s ready for some pie?!
What would you consider your “life’s inflection points”? Did you recognize them at the time?
Babs tilted her phone towards me so I could take a closer look at the photo she’d just snapped.
“I look cute!” I marveled, grabbing the phone from her hands.
“You are cute,” she replied in typical mom fashion.
I stared at the picture for another moment. Huh. I hadn’t wanted her to take the photo. I was sitting on her back porch in hiking gear, eating snacks, feeling grimy and gross and shiny and pudgy.
Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I am Feeling. My. Self. This was not one of them.
The next day, I sat in a plastic chair, sweat starting to pool at the base of my spine. Three fiery orange lights pointed directly at my foil-covered head.
“Just a few more minutes,” a woman in a black smock said with a smile, disappearing to concoct more ammonia-scented tinctures behind closed doors.
What am I doing? Why am I spending 3+ precious hours -not to mention hundreds of dollars- stuck inside on this beautiful June day, covered in chemicals, flipping through a magazine in order to learn more about Mark Hamill’s ill-fated marriage?
Did I think perfect highlights would give me that I Feel Pretty moment?
What was I really after every time someone snapped a group selfie and I insisted they take it from atop Mount Everest, or I decided to drop half a month’s rent on a universally accepted, if questionable, beauty ritual?
In two days, I drive 2,780 miles to a new city that I intend to call home – at least for the next year.
Much like bravery -that thing you only have because you’re willing to sh*t your pants on a regular basis (…hang on, is that not how the saying goes?)- confidence isn’t an unwavering friend, staring you back in the mirror murmuring, “You got this.”
Confidence skirts behind bullied childhoods and face palm-inducing moments. Confidence comes as quickly as she goes, and holding onto her sometimes feels like reaching for that perfect hair day. There is no perfect hair day.
“See this?” I held up my phone to Babs, having just finished the 3+ hour follicle-torture ritual. “This is all lies.”
“No, it isn’t! You just took that photo. I was sitting right next you!” she said with a sideways glance.
I snapped another picture, holding it underneath my face, sunlight highlighting every chin and their respective hairs.
“I also just took this one.”
Babs looked at my phone and laughed.
In two days, I’m going to remind myself that during every one of those 2,780 miles, I have a choice. I can decide to see myself as the girl with 8,000 chins unforgivable flaws, incapable of making new friends in a new town -or- as the unstoppable girl woman brimming with something even more intoxicating than confidence: self-love.
I lick my lips for the 47th time in an hour and look around. My mouth is so dry that I’m fantasizing about lip balm pots like they’re purple beads on Mardi Gras. My surroundings do little to distract me.
Girl with feet on back of seat, head on knees, sound asleep. How is that comfortable?
Impossibly tiny child watching Monsters, Inc. on an iPhone. I never knew they made headphones that small. Whenever I get up to pee, she places her doll, Bella, in my chair to “save my seat.”
A clean-shaven man in a crisp white shirt plugging away at his laptop, pausing during each draft email, carefully considering what precedes, “Regards, Bill Baker, CPA.” God, I don’t miss Outlook.
I look at my insulated water bottle, concave from the cabin pressure. If I take another sip, I risk having to use the bathroom. Again. I swallow and look at the top lefthand corner of my phone. Again. Three more hours.
When I booked the “super saver airfare” a month earlier, I had only one thought in mind: getting out of Jersey.
Now, after six days in San Diego visiting friends and family, I’m just a few hours from home.
Or… not. If home is the place where you pay rent, then I only have ten days left to call New Jersey my own. After that, I face a knee-wobbling series of unknowns that has me questioning… EVERYTHING.
What if I was wrong? What if I don’t know myself after all? What if, along with every shred of familiarity and security, I’ve also tossed out my sanity? Who does this? Who, at 36, quits her full-time job, sells all of her stuff, and starts over?
I take a deep breath and press my head into the seat, careful not to touch the recline button lest I invade anyone else’s space even more. I think about the words I heard just a few days earlier, southern California sun on my skin, salt air in my lungs, and rollerblades on my feet.
“Love is the most important thing,” a leather-skinned man said in an easy, Southern accent. “And honor is like the knight, protecting it.”
When my friend Tracy and I spotted him on the Pacific Beach boardwalk -as I had shamelessly hoped we would- he immediately beckoned us over.
(I’m not saying you should watch that whole video…but you should watch that whole video.)
“You’re laughing,” Slomo drawled, skipping over any normal introduction or pleasantries and diving right into a line of thought he seemed to have been working on for years. “Having a sense of humor is so important. Always vote for the guy who still has a sense of humor.”
I thought back to another older man who had recently approached my sister and I at a bar.
“Do ya know why I came over here?” he had asked. We had been immediately taken by his twinkling blue eyes and Irish accent. After we’d failed to produce an adequate answer, he had continued, “B’cause you were laughin’.”
I purse my chapped lips and my pulse steadies, reliving both conversations. I close my eyes and breathe in through my nose, letting the air slide back out as smoothly as Tracy’s skates on the San Diego sidewalk.
Love and laughter. Yes. That’s why I’m doing this.
I was 11 years old when my best friends, Amy and Angie (“The Twins”), befriended a girl outside of our regular social circle, Diane. They must have thought we were in Season 2 of our friendship.
Diane was cool enough, I guess, smart enough, I guess, nice enough, I guess with shiny, straight black hair and almond-shaped eyes. Right off the bat, I felt like I couldn’t trust her. She never said it aloud, but it was obvious she was laying the groundwork for her Popular Crowd Migration to middle school, less than one year away.
During the years leading up to Diane’s initiation, The Twins and I had ridden our bikes to school together, joined the same summer swim team, and created a fantasy baby-sitting business, just like the one in the book series we obsessively read while sitting side-by-side in their shared bedroom.
Soccer, girl scouts, arts and crafts – The Twins and I were inseparable. By 5th grade, though, I was overweight and badly in need of braces; there was no way I was making the cut into Diane’s budding Popular Crowd. The Twins and Diane would still sometimes invite me over, but do their best to exclude me once they did. That winter, when we tried to build an igloo at Diane’s house, they told me they couldn’t make it big enough to fit me.
The following spring, The Twins and Diane invited me to meet them at a drug store in the neighboring town – the town where all the cool kids hung out after school. They wanted to get the latest must-have toy, DIY balloons. By squirting a dollop of liquid plastic on the end of a little red straw, you could blow a hardcore bubble “balloon.” And then you could, ah, well, um. I don’t know. Stuff your training bra with it?
I couldn’t wait to get there. Babs (Mom) and I pushed the heavy drug store door open, the bells jingling as we looked left and right, trying to spot my crew. We wandered to the toy section…the card section…the toiletries section…back to the toy section. I did a double-take. The huge rack holding the balloon toys was empty. We waited. And waited some more.
I tried to ignore the dread pooling in the pit of my stomach. Eventually I accepted the truth.
They had told me to meet them there late.
I quickly did the math in my head. They each must have bought over a half-dozen balloon packs to clear out the store before I had gotten there. Now that’s commitment. I stopped speaking to them after that, and shortly afterwards, my 5th grade teacher caught me after school.
“Is everything okay?” she asked, her kind face crumpling with concern. I was a straight-A student; I was never held back to talk to the teacher after school, let alone forced to witness her Pity Face. I was mortified.
“Everything’s fine,” I muttered and bolted out the door. Were all the parents talking about me? It was bad enough being in the same classroom with Diane every day.
Angie, The Good Twin, tried and failed to apologize, explaining that she was just going along with the other two. All this did was remind me that their evil plan had been real.
The next year, I started having panic attacks on the way to middle school. I was teased for being heavy and wearing weird quirky clothes, and had the sinking feeling it wasn’t ever going to get any better. The drug store incident had been nothing compared to the bullying some endure, but for a sensitive pre-teen, the moment was life-altering.
That was the moment I could have decided to let them win, to become one of them. To look at the world through the lens of, “How does this make ME feel?” instead of, “How does this make YOU feel?”
The mean girls reminded me exactly how to treat other people.
And by that I mean how NOT to treat other people.
Us mean girl prey know we never want anyone to suffer like we once did. And we love the role they played in our lives. Without their cruelty, we might never have cultivated such huge-ass hearts.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
How do you deal with The Grand Unknown? (Hey, come out of that corner, you. It’s safe over here. I have bean dip!)
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.
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?
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?
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.
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
Happy New Year, my cherished Chipmunks! I can say with the confidence of Jessica Biel after Justin Timberlake proposed: 2019 is gonna be MAGIC!
“‘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.
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.
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.
Puzzle pieces I’d never known I’d failed to connect suddenly formed a gruesome picture. And I was part of causing that gore.
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?
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!”
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.
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:
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.
And we get the opportunity to express our true, loving, compassionate selves every day, through every action we take.