Month: December 2016

Mama Bear

The thing with writing about my most personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences, is that people read them. And when those thoughts, feelings, and experiences involve other people- who read them- things can get interesting.

I woke up yesterday to a message from The Handsome Indian man I hung out with in Bali. He read what I wrote about him, our interactions, and my confusion around the context. And he wanted to clear up the confusion.

He explained that he did indeed have a girlfriend, and told me why he didn’t mention it (basically he didn’t want to be presumptuous about where I was coming from). He also apologized for any way in which he may have misled me, though he was intentionally trying to not mislead me by intentionally not do anything he would normally do when trying to drop hints or make a move, which is basically just showing affection.

When I first read it I thought, Aww that’s really sweet of him to communicate that. I truly appreciated it and still do. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself stricken by something he said. The ways in which he drops hints and makes moves. Showing affection, holding hands, touching, etc., simple, right?

It made me realize how rare it’s been for me to have men do that as a means of dropping a hint. Those few actions, which he considered dropping a hint- as in, just the beginning of what he has to offer in a relationship- have been pretty much the extent of the effort most men dudes have made for me- as in, the end point of what they have offered me- even deep into relationships. It’s more often been me to be the one to do those things as a means of dropping hints.

I started to wonder, is this a cultural thing? Are American men just lazy, unromantic, and incapable of chivalry? Probably. Is it (and I say this as a proud and avid feminist): the ways in which I think feminism has damaged modern relationship building? Possibly. Or was it just my experience with men dudes, the ways in which my own issues have played themselves out time and time again, and the men dudes that I got myself involved with being a reflection of who and how I was at the time? Most definitely.

The thing with The Handsome Indian is that he was just a handsome Indian man I became friends with, and for a moment I thought something more might be happening, until I realized that it wasn’t, and now he’s just a handsome Indian man (with a girlfriend) who I’m friends with, again. That’s all it is. But you know me- nothing is ever “that’s all it is”.

I’m always going to look for the lesson and deeper meaning in every situation (because it’s always there).

It felt so good to have him clearly communicate to me (another thing a lot of American men seem to lack). It felt so good to be in a space of unobstructed Truth. But the more time I spent in that Truth, the more I could see and feel that it was exposing a wound that still needed to heal.

See, I wasn’t even trying this time, yet I still, even if just for a brief moment, found myself in a situation where I was allured by an unavailable man and ended up feeling a sense of rejection.

I have done so much work around this. I have gotten to know that pattern well- too well. I have become very conscious of my old, detrimental ways. And I have gained so much knowledge about how to shift those old ways. I have grown and evolved and become a much healthier person. But despite all of the growth and all of the knowledge– I still hadn’t truly learned.

And this time I could feel it, deeply. I am done. In the depths of my Truth I am so done doing this to myself.

That pattern has played itself to death.

I’m an intelligent, attractive, kind, caring, funny woman, to say the least. It’s not unreasonable for me to want to be treated with a basic sense of value… to say the least.

Yet, it still tends to be an anomaly for me. And it hasn’t just been with guys either. This has existed across all genders and contexts.

And one simple, parenthetical set of words, said by one handsome Indian friend, has really gotten me to take a deeper look at all of this.

When I look back at my tumultuous past, and think about the things I permitted people to say and do to me, I am fraught with indignation like never before.

After years of inner child work I finally… truly, feel like a mama bear protecting her cub, when it comes to taking care of the innocent little Julia inside me. I can finally say- and without a shadow of a doubt mean it- “Never again.

Whether it was family, friends, lovers, co-workers, or bosses, I always found ways to say, “It’s ok.

“It’s ok for me to be treated this way.

“It’s ok for me to be underappreciated, taken for granted, walked all over, used, and abused. It’ ok for me to be disrespected and disregarded. It’s ok for me to be underestimated and over-scrutinized. It’s ok to not be shown common courtesy and common decency. It’s ok.

I’ll do it.

“I’ll be the one to treat you how I want to be treated. I’ll be the one to initiate contact. I’ll be the one to make plans. I’ll be the one to make the first move. I’ll be the one to make romantic gestures. I’ll be the one to communicate… I’ll be the one to apologize.”

And I did it again, and again.

But I’m not going to say “It’s ok” anymore. Because it’s not ok.

It’s not ok to say and do the horrifically manipulative things that so many people have said and done to me throughout my life. It’s not ok to do the heinously aggressive- and almost worse, passive-aggressive- things that people have said and done to me throughout my life. It’s not ok to antagonize and throw tantrums, then play the victim when there’s a reaction. It’s not ok to gaslight and guilt trip.

It’s not ok. None of it is ok.

I am finally, from the depths of my Truth, saying, “No more.”

I will no longer make excuses for people. I will no longer believe the lies. I will no longer take the bait. I will no longer hold out hope for others to become anything other than what they have shown me.

And that has never felt more true.

The Handsome Indian wasn’t doing any of these things- he’s a wonderful person. He just held the magnifying glass over an old wound, gently touched it, and proverbially said, “There, that’s where it still hurts.”

Had none of this happened the way it did, I would not have arrived at the profoundly important place where the mama bear within me can wholeheartedly lick the wounds of her little Julia cub, so those wounds can finally heal.

I guess I know what my current totem animal is.

mama-bear

I have no idea who owns the rights to this image, but it is perfect.

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Everyday Adventures

I’m sitting here, on a slightly sunny, slightly cloudy Monday morning in Marin County, California. I’m slightly rested, and slightly tired. But I’ve made a commitment to myself to write every single day. Even if it’s terrible. Even if I don’t share it publicly.

I’ve attempted this before, but I’ve never committed to it. And I never had my energy in the right place in order to accomplish it before. I usually have plenty of things on my mind that I can write about, but this morning as I opened up my empty Word document, I had no idea what words would come out.

As I muse, I’m thinking about where my personal evolution has led me. A few years ago, when I first started this blog, I was on a determined mission. My life, and the work I wanted to do, was devoted to mindfulness and personal growth, and how to share and spread those lessons.

Part of the healing I’ve experienced in the work that I do has been letting go of perfectionism. As I’ve released the tight grip that perfectionism had around my neck, I feel like I’ve shifted direction quite a bit.

My work seems a bit less fixated, and a lot more authentic. Not that it wasn’t authentic before, it’s just that now it showcases a more full spectrum of who I am and where I’m at.

I have long considered my number one job to be: doing my work and telling my stories about it. That means it is also my job to tell my truth. The more work I’ve done, the more relaxed and vulnerable I have become in showing you who I am. Not just certain parts of me, but all of me.

Instead of just revealing the part of me that loves mindfulness and personal development and wants to help others heal and grow, I am now revealing the Julia who is passionate about women’s rights, LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, and the atrocities that have been happening to the Native Americans at Standing Rock. The Julia who is silly and messy and real and raw. The Julia who loves hip hop and comedy and nature and art. The Julia who is still unfolding and evolving every day.

I can’t just be a one faceted person, nor do I want to be. As I get more honest with who I am, I also get more honest with you.

In my travels, both globally and internally, I have continued to learn, grow, and evolve, which has shifted my focus and re-framed my mission a little bit.

Although I think I will always consider my job to be doing my work and telling my stories about it, I think, as a Writer and Truth Seeker, the emphasis has become more on telling my stories.

When I saw the enthusiastic response I received from sharing my adventures in Bali, I saw how beautiful it was to be able to take you all with me wherever I go, and how much people seem to enjoy feeling like they are on the ride with me.

Since I’ve been back in The States, I continue to tell my stories about my experiences, but I try to think of it less as telling my stories about my personal issues that I have to overcome, and more sharing my everyday travels with you. Whether those travels are the journey self-discovery, exploring life without anxiety for the first time, my experiences walking around town or in the woods, or whatever new adventure I plan to embark on (I have a few in the works right now), there are always lessons to learn from the experience. And there is an opportunity to share those lessons by taking you on my journey with me, which draws upon one of my favorite aspects of life- human connection.

I feel much more connected to all of you this way. It’s like I’ve broken the fourth wall. In fact a lot of my walls have come down. And I’m just here, showing you Who I Am, in various circumstances.

Another way in which I feel this new approach brings you inside the experience with me, is because instead of just generally talking about how I may have worked through a certain issue, let’s say insecurity for example, I can actually give real life, real time, examples of which insecurities I am working through and the who, what, where, when, why of it all.

I can talk about my fears, as a general concept. Or I can talk about my fears of getting money exchanged in a foreign country or riding a motorbike for the first time. I’m still confronting fears, and I’m still showing you my process and my lessons, but I’m giving life to the lessons and letting you feel the wind in your hair as you ride the motorbike with me.

I’m also allowing myself to share something else I love with you- taking photographs. In our device driven, selfie-obsessed world, I have shied away from whipping out my phone to snap a picture of everything all the time. Plus, as a mindfulness practitioner, I feel like it often takes us out of the moment. But I have always loved taking photographs. So now, I am thoroughly (and mindfully) enjoying capturing the moments of my life, and instead of just stock piling my own collection of images, I think of it more as providing you with visuals to go along with the stories I tell.

I love my life, and I love getting to share my experiences with you!

Maybe my next story will be about the answers to life questions that came to me in meditation, or maybe it will be about that incredible time I had at a Mos Def show the other night. Both experiences brought me closer to my truth. And both are opportunities to bring you inside the experience with me.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

A New Trip

Sticking with the theme of my life lately, the lessons (and gifts) I’ve received from my experience of going to (and returning from) Bali, I’ve been really tripping out at how different I feel on a daily basis. I am different. I’ve changed, as I’m sure anyone does when they take a giant leap outside of their comfort zone in pursuit of their heart’s desire. I don’t feel the same inside and I don’t operate in quite the same way.

When I left, I was in a default state of anxiety. I’d have moments of clarity and bliss and ease, but those moments were exceptions to my default state. And now, it’s the opposite. My default state is at ease and happy and clear- even when I’m tired and foggy.

I’ve lived with anxiety pretty much my whole life, even when I didn’t realize it. So, it’s quite interesting learning how to live without anxiety. My standard operating procedures have shifted tremendously, in a very subtle way. I notice it all the time- the ways in which I approach situations- what would normally be automatic fear-based reactions, I now approach with ease and openness. And it just happens naturally. There’s no conscious effort in trying to not have anxiety. I just see that it’s not there, where it used to be, all the time. It doesn’t hang over my shoulder, controlling me like it used to.

It still shows up sometimes, but it’s not my default anymore. And when it does show up, even when it takes up a lot of space, I am able to remain detached from it.

Having that distance from it has allowed me to gain new perspective. I see more clearly where my anxiety stems from. Well, I know where it stems from. It stems from a sense of not feeling safe. But I think, for me, that sense of not feeling safe is more of its destination than its starting point.

It felt like it began with an internal conflict. Having everyone else’s voices in my head telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, what I’m supposed to do and not do, which conflicted with what felt natural for me to do or not do. It’s almost like a “should” button got pressed inside of me. Whenever it got pressed, it activated my anxiety. I might have been feeling, thinking, moving one way, then the “should” button got pressed, and I started to fear the “what-ifs?” And one “what-if?” leads to another, and another, and before you know it I was paralyzed with fear. So, I stayed put. I held back. There was a halt to my natural state and I no longer flowed freely. I contracted. And I did not do anything.

It’s funny how not doing anything can use so much energy. But it does. It takes energy to hold myself back. It takes energy to halt momentum. It takes energy to restrict energy. And that was my default state.

I remember so many times sitting in my therapist’s office in tears, lamenting, “I don’t want to keep living like this!

But I didn’t know any other way to be. I didn’t know how to not live with anxiety. It was a survival mechanism that had been programmed into me through years of abusive relationships, through years of everyone around me telling me it’s not ok for me to be who and how I am.

But when I went to Bali, and was able to have so much physical distance from all of my triggers, I got to experience what it was like to just Be– without condemnation.

I had the opportunity to just do whatever the hell I wanted to do, or not do, to be however I wanted to be. And I didn’t have to worry about old ghosts tormenting me there.

When I first arrived to Bali, I could feel myself still holding on. I knew, in the depths of my being, that there was some serious letting go that needed to happen. But I thought that the letting go and the openness would feel more defined. It didn’t though. It wasn’t like there was a specific line that I crossed that felt like, “ok, I’ve let go now and now I’m open.”

It was more of a subtle shift, where I started to notice that I was operating differently. The same old mechanisms were no longer at work. But there wasn’t a specific moment. And thank God Truth!

I’ve done the Aha! moments. And I fucking love them! When you really experience a major Aha! moment, it’s like being in altered state. Yet, it’s better than any drug (that I’ve ever tried). But the thing is, you kind of are in an altered state. A flash of insight has altered your normal way of seeing things and disrupted your standard operating procedures. More often than not though, those altered states revert back to old ways. And those are the crucial moments, when you really need to get to work, integrating the insights into your daily life and behaviors. Because if the Aha! moments aren’t supported by doing the work to shift your behavior, then that’s all they were- moments, that passed.

I loved doing that work. That work is my life’s work, in every sense. But, as I talked about in my last blog post, I have been working way too hard for way too hard, and I was exhausted. So, when I went to Bali, and finally stopped working so hard, I was still able to experience a profound shift.

So, there was no specific Aha! moment this time. The shift was subtle, yet powerful. My standard operating procedures have been dismantled and now everything feels like it runs more smoothly, flows more freely.

I catch myself in these moments, and I say to myself, “did you see what just happened there? Normally you would’ve closed yourself off to that. You would’ve reacted from fear, and you would’ve shut down. But you didn’t this time!

I have those moments all the time now. I’m pleasantly perplexed by them. I’m not used to feeling this way. When I was so used to living with anxiety, even when I’d have good days, it usually triggered even more anxiety. I’d obsessively try to figure out what caused the goodness, so I could try to make it stay. I wanted so badly to be in a default state of goodness, with anxiety being the exception.

And now, I’m there, where I’ve always wanted to be. I really wasn’t sure if it would ever happen. But I am at ease, by default. I can truly understand on a deep level now that good days just happen. And then they don’t.

Not every day can be the best day of my life. Just because I am not having a really good day, doesn’t mean I am having a bad day. I can just have a day, and enjoy it, and be grateful for it, without obsessively trying to make it anything other than what it is.

I’ve known this for so long, but now I feel it and experience it much more profoundly than ever before. I inhabit it, instead of just thinking about it.

It’s a whole new trip. And just like my trip to Bali, I am so grateful I get to take all of you on this trip with me!

It took facing my fears, moving towards them, through them, and to the other side of them, to be able to put them behind me. It took traveling to the other side of the world to finally come home.

None Of My Busyness

In just a few more days it will be one month since I’ve been back in California. I have settled pretty seamlessly back into life here.

I was expecting more of a culture shock when I returned, but I actually felt the total opposite. I just kind of felt nothing. My first thought upon entering my driveway on the way home from the airport was, “so, like, that’s it? I’m just here now?”

Everything was exactly the same as I left it. I knew what I would be coming back to. Yet I was still surprised I didn’t feel a stark contrast in my environment.

But I did feel a stark contrast within myself.

One of the first things I noticed when I got to Bali was a deeper awareness for the senseless busyness that seemed to be everywhere in California. And it didn’t take me long at all to notice how exhausted I was with trying to keep up with it all.

When I first learned mindfulness a few years ago, I discovered how detrimental busyness really is. It’s being stuck in a state of doing instead of a state of BEing. It’s an endless chase of the next, instead of truly experiencing what IS.

So, learning all of that, and immersing myself in the practice of mindfulness, I really shifted my way of living. I retired my busyness. And it changed my life, in the most beautiful and profound way.

Unfortunately, I felt like I was the only one around me who got this. So I became passionate about wanting to pass on this new knowledge to people. I wanted others to get to experience the profound shift that I did.

But after several years, I finally realized that not many other people are that interested in it. They may be interested in what happens after the shift, but doing (or not doing) what it takes to create that shift was more than anyone was willing to participate in. I couldn’t even get people to show up- in every sense.

So, I found myself in a space where not many other people were. And that’s just it- there was space. I had created so much space in my life to be able to actually live and thoroughly enjoy my life with those I cared about, but it seemed like nobody else had created that same space. Everyone was too busy.

I started to feel judged for not being too busy. Like busyness was some sort of standard and I didn’t have enough going on in my life to actually constitute a life. But my life has been very intentional. I created space for people and things that I cared about. They just weren’t showing up.

So I’d run around trying to keep up with all of the busy people around me. But I can’t run that fast. Nor do I want to.

So when I got to Bali, and gained distance from what my life had been, I finally realized just how much I had been chasing unavailability, and how deeply exhausted I was from it.

Because I had been chasing that unavailability my entire life.

Starting from childhood with my family, then sticking with what I knew, recreating the chase in almost all my other relationships, of any context. And it all ended up directly reflecting into my career (or lack thereof), my finances (or lack thereof), and my issues with trust (or lack thereof).  It was all just a metaphor for my relentless chasing of unavailability.

I have done so much work around this stuff. I couldn’t believe I was still so engulfed in such an old pattern.

I worked so hard for the approval of abusive people who could never be pleased- people who only knew how to take and not how to give. They were bottomless pits of “not enough.”

I worked so hard to try to make a satisfying living and life for myself in a place that has never felt right for me, despite how breathtakingly beautiful it is here. I worked so hard to prove myself- to others (and therefore myself). I worked so hard to try to gain permission to just be Who I Am.

I worked so hard to heal from the years of abuse, control, and manipulation. I worked so hard at cleaning out the toxic drudge that lived within me. I worked so hard to become the best version of Me that I could possibly be.

And once I became a better version of Me, I worked so hard at trying to stay healthy. I worked so hard to try to keep good people in my life.  I worked so hard at trying to make so many other things (or people) work, when sometimes they just didn’t.

I kept working and working. And I loved that work! But I worked so hard only to find myself still working so hard.

No wonder I was exhausted. I’ve spent so much of my life working so hard.

And the grand irony is that the harder I worked and the more I chased unavailability, I myself became unavailable. I was unavailable because my energy was focused elsewhere- on unavailability. I was consumed by unavailability.  And I wasn’t available for anything (or anyone) that was available, which includes the relationships that I want, the career that I want, the bank account that I want… the life that I want.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my life. But there is much of my life that has felt like it’s just been waiting for me to step into it. All the while my back has been turned with my energy and focus on all of the things and people that were unavailable.

And the thing is, all of the unavailable people that I have been chasing, in various contexts, are busy with their own chase. They’re not actually inhabiting their own lives.

Neither was I.

Even after all that work.

So, when I got away from all of the unavailability, and took a big break form the chase, I was able to see just how hard I had been working for so much that didn’t work for me.

I went to Bali. And I let go.

It took a couple weeks, but I settled into a flow. I didn’t have to try. At all. People and places and circumstances just showed up. Because I was available for them. Everything just fell into place with such ease. Because I let it.  The life that had been waiting for me was finally being lived.

Then I had to leave. And go back to a home that has never really felt like home to me, a place that no matter how much the sun shines has never felt warm to me, a place where no matter how little crime there is has never really felt safe for me, a place where no matter how many decades I have spent there I have never felt a sense of belonging. In fact, I have felt more of a sense of longing than belonging here.

So when I came back to California none of that felt any different. But I felt different. And therein lies the contrast.

I’ve been back for just about a month and I am still getting used to the new skin that I’m living in. I am getting used to experiencing being able to approach situations with ease instead of anxiety, with curiosity instead of fear. I’m getting used to no longer chasing the things (and people) that don’t work for me. And I’m getting used to the feeling of being completely and genuinely ok with it all.

Experiencing the contrast really helped me gain perspective on what I was really returning to. I was not planning to return to unavailability, no matter how prevalent it may be. I was returning with a renewed focus. That focus being on two things- writing (and finding a way to build a sustainable income doing that), and how to get back to Bali as soon as possible (based on finding a sustainable income that will allow me to do that). Those are pretty much the only things I have the energy for anyway.

I no longer have energy for the chase, even if I wanted it. It’s not there anymore. I have exhausted it all. That resource has been depleted.

My energy is now being spent creating, instead of working, on allowing, instead of chasing, on taking steps, instead of running… on living the life that’s been waiting for me, instead of perishing inside a life I don’t even want.

And I finally, truly feel ready and available for all that I’ve ever wanted.

~Maktub~