thejuliemeister

Musings from an unsuspecting navy wife

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Becoming a Yogini

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I’m buzzing, glowing, exhausted, thrilled, and totally at peace after teaching my very first yoga class.

12 days ago I graduated from yoga teacher training. Today I took the step towards teaching, while remaining mindful that I’m always a student. Even though I taught, I learned a lot in that first class, like not to fall down while demonstrating a posture.

The class wasn’t flawless. Several times I got feet and hands confused in giving directions. I also mixed up right and left and my eagle pose was a disaster. Thankfully there were no terrible repercussions. It was ok. I lived. My students lived. They seemed to enjoy my class, and not just the friends I forced to attend. I did it.

When I moved to Hawaii, I realized that as a military spouse, working a traditional corporate job probably wasn’t realistic. I decided that I wanted to teach violin and write. Eventually I’d look into yoga teacher training because I’d wanted to do that for years.

A few weeks before my move on a lark, I applied for a marketing job in Honolulu, because I lacked faith that I’d be able to make it with the passions I wanted to explore. I got the position, and felt obligated to be the working professional I thought I should be.

I was miserable. My coworkers and supervisor were amazing. The work was fine, but I felt constantly drained. I hated not working for myself and feeling like I had to stay. Nobody was making me.

I felt so guilty at the thought of not maintaining a 40-hour workweek when I was capable. Never mind that it was costing my sanity. I felt like there was something wrong with me for being constantly miserable in the full-time desk jobs I held after college.

Everyone in my family has always worked corporate jobs. My parents met in the workplace. While I was always told I could do whatever I wanted, and was very supported, for some reason I still felt like I had to work a high-stress job to be successful. But stress isn’t the measure of success.

I left my marketing job for another in non-profit, but still wasn’t happy sitting at a desk all day. Finally I had to come to terms with the fact that working in an office isn’t for me.

I registered for an intensive yoga teacher training. It was three weeks of 10-hour days with no day off in the middle. A few times I lost my mind to uncontrollable giggles or fell asleep through a 7am asana practice. I learned anatomy, some Sanskrit, philosophy and sequencing. It was a lot to force into my brain, but miraculously I retained most of it (and kept my manuals just in case).

In training I met some of the most beautiful souls. There was Liz, the laughter captain, Amanda the powerful, Misha the fabulous, Lauren the soulful, Kaylee the beautiful, Jax the forthright mama-to-be and Jaimie the storyteller who brings babies into the world. These are just a small handful of the community we forged, each woman with her own unique talent, and too many to list here. I’ve never felt so instantly welcome and loved.

My instructors were remarkable. I’m not afraid to say I have active girl crushes on them all. They had so much talent, strength and flexibility, both physical and mental. Adria shepherded our spirits, Kilty made us love anatomy, and Courtney wowed us with her physical abilities while always making us laugh.

On the first day of training, each instructor introduced herself. During Kilty’s introduction she said that she frequently reminds herself “I am enough.” I’d never thought that before. I’ve always assumed some level of lacking. I thought of the areas where I can improve in life as a void constituting my utter insufficiency. Being imperfect doesn’t make me deficient in some way though. It just means that I have space to grow. I’m still enough wherever I am.

Starting to believe that I am enough as an individual (it’s still a daily struggle to remind myself and have faith), gave me a glimpse of who I might really be. I’ve always defined myself externally. How do I earn money? Where do I live? Who is my spouse and how does he earn? These things can all provide clues to my true self, but aren’t everything.

I am more than a job, or home or spouse, although my husband brings me more strength than I’ve ever had on my own. He helps me find power that I didn’t know I had. He supports every decision, even when I can’t muster support myself. I believe everyone must find a way to define him or herself internally, but I also know that without the support system my husband provides, I might never have tried to do that which challenges me. I’m so thankful for the opportunity.

I’m still learning who I can be without labels. It’s a process, and not an easy one. But yoga is honestly helping me feel like I can take the journey.

There’s a word in Sanskrit that roughly translates to bliss: ananda. It’s a dance on the tongue, a smile on the lips, a light in the heart, and a radiance through the soul. Ananda.

I didn’t know I’d been lacking ananda, but now that I’ve seen it, I feel it daily. It’s fleeting and impermanent, but each darting glance brings me one step closer to knowing myself.

Julie & Cameron FINAL-1152


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Friendships and Facebook

In 2004 I started college at UC Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is an eclectic place, which is illustrated by the student body’s decision to cast a banana slug as our illustrious mascot. Somewhere in my first quarter of freshman year, a friend introduced me to The Facebook. It hadn’t yet shifted to the singularly iconic “Facebook” by then. I remember thinking that it wasn’t as good as MySpace.

Back then Facebook was useful. You had to have a “.edu” email account to register. I could list all of my classes at UCSC in my profile, and find other students in the same courses. That way if I missed a lecture it was an easy search and message to find someone with notes. By the time I graduated, this feature was gone.

I initially interacted with my first real boyfriend on Facebook. He was the son of my mom’s work friend. She told me to find some way to ask him if we could carpool for coming home at Thanksgiving. Our innocent messages turned to a clandestine flirtation, and then about a year and a half of dating. My next major college boyfriend also started via some profile stalking and flirtatious messages.

Soon it was everywhere. My first job out of college relied on me to create a social media presence. In the years since, I’ve specialized in social media marketing, a field that I never thought would net me any funds.

Now my mom is on Facebook. My octogenarian great aunt has an account. I’ve had to go through old photos and delete anything that wasn’t business friendly, because something that was once devoted to personal friendships is now searchable by potential employers.

Truth be told, this is all a preamble. I feel like these developments in social media can be regrettable, but understandable. The real problem with social media is how we, as participants, use it.

In the last 3 years, I’ve found out two friends have died via Facebook. The first was Dominic. He was 23. He died in 2012. We were in high school orchestra together. He was a freshman when I was a junior. Our conductor paired us to play the second movement of the Bach Double Concerto. It was the slow movement, and we both had terrible stage fright. It was not pretty. But like soldiers from the same horrific battle, we had remained oddly connected. At least I felt that way, and he’s not here to argue.

The second was Summer. She was 25, and she died last month. She and I had moved through the same circles in Monterey. I’m not sure where we actually met, but we connected one lunch where we discovered we’d primarily dated the same men in the previous year. Some women would have been threatened. We compared notes.

That one lunch was enough to solidify a friendship. She was one of the funniest people I ever met. In times of crisis, she was there. She was solid. When I met my husband I let us drift apart. I didn’t stop caring about her welfare, but I didn’t have the time to maintain an active friendship. I was a bad friend. Instead of actually talking to her, I watched her wall, and liked what she posted that made it to my newsfeed. It made me feel like we were still close.

The newsfeed can be a deceptive device. The average Facebook user has 338 friends according to a quick search. Think on that number. I’m quite gregarious, and I have over 400 “friends.” Of those 400 folks, I see only the updates from a few dozen online. It’s not that the rest aren’t posting ever, it’s just that Facebook has an algorithm that narrows down newsfeed options to only whatever you are likely to interact with. This is generally determined by recent friend ads, likes, and common searches.

The folks who make it to your newsfeed might never see what you post. Conversely, someone may see everything that you do when none of his or her posts make your feed. You never know who is really paying attention.

But it’s so easy to imagine that if you see something someone has said or done online to feel like you’re still real friends. Who knows how many people feel that way about you that you’ve never thought twice about?

The other issue is that we only ever see what someone decides to share. Most people will only show the good side of things. I suffer from depression and anxiety, but my social media posts are generally light-hearted and funny. You would never know from my online presence that my life is anything but bliss. It’s impossible to know anything more than broad strokes of a person’s life by how they present themselves online. I never knew Dominic was so sick or Summer so sad by watching their posts alone.

If it wasn’t for Facebook though, I might not have even known they died. I’m not sure if that’s worse. Then again, would I have continued to feel so connected and then so heartbroken by their deaths had it not been for social media?

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with Facebook or social media. It can be a useful tool to help people communicate. I have lived in 4 states and nearly a dozen towns in my life, and social media provides a constant to help me stay in touch. The problem arises when anyone, myself included, starts to rely on social media to maintain or affirm friendships.

I am guilty of allowing myself into the lull of passive online friendships. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t believe that quitting social media is the answer. That removes one symptom but doesn’t alleviate the underlying problem. Instead I plan to participate with caution, and rely on active communication to keep relationships alive.


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To my 100 year-old self

I recently entered my first writing competition, with high hopes. I didn’t win. That’s ok. I’m still proud of what I wrote. I’d like to share here. Please note, it is a work of fiction, and not my usual honest story. Here is the prompt:

Write an essay to yourself on your 100th birthday. What would you say to yourself at that age? What would your 100-year-old self tell you back? Would it be a conversation of praise and/or regret? Perhaps praise for the achievements in your career, but regrets about a lost family? Or warnings about the mistakes you made in your projected future or in your past; pitfalls you happened to be dragged into, temptations you could not resist; or celebrations for the good character you were able to display and sustain over a life; a precious life wasted or a life lived as it was meant to be.

This was my submission:

To my 100-year-old self,

Growing up, I never really saw myself past college. Through that point, everything was planned for me. Each step was clear to completion. I would graduate high school, be accepted to some university, and get a degree in whatever seemed most suitable. After that was a blank in my mind’s eye. Sometimes I assumed I would die young.

I drifted. I worked jobs that seemed professional. I paid my bills. I dated boys who had no promise just to feel connected. For a time I put my hope in Dean. It was safe to pine for someone I knew never wanted me. When that crumpled I felt lost again.

Then Cameron came along. We were both adrift. We knew our core selves, but lacked direction. We met at a party in Monterey that neither of us were invited to. Do you still remember that night?

It was a mustache and wig party, which was very much in vogue in 2011. Cameron had a mullet wig and a drawn-on handlebar mustache. He chain-smoked and drank Cobra malt liquor from a paper bag. You wanted nothing to do with him. Not only was he mildly repellent, but he was also a naval officer, and those were off-limits.

God he was persistent. He called, texted, emailed and showed up at the office to make sure I’d go out with him. It worked. Less than a year later we were married, and we have changed around each other and are both better for it. Today he is my heart and hopes.

With Cameron and his career, I’m not lost. I have a path that will take us through the next dozen years before he can retire. But again I find that I don’t see anything beyond what the Navy throws at him with me in tow. Perhaps that’s why I’m not entirely certain what to say to myself at a wizened old age.

Today, the oldest man I know is Mr. Byrd. I’m sure that by 100 the time I spent working in his office will be an insignificant blip, but to me today, it is encompassing.

Mr. Byrd is 86, 14 years younger than you, and to me he is ancient. I cannot fathom myself at his age or beyond. He walks with a cane and it looks like all of his heft has settled low on is torso, as if his skin was a cloth bag where all of the contents drifted down to the bottom in lumps. Every morning I ask how he is and he consistently responds “still here- still alive.” Then chuckles to himself as I giggle uncomfortably. His frame may be old, but his wit hasn’t ebbed.

Will I be like that one day? With papery thin skin that breaks and bruises with little provocation? Will I maintain my mind even as my body ages and fails me? Or will I be like mom’s mom, Grandmae, and slowly lose my purchase on reality until I no longer recognize my own grandchildren? I’ll admit both prospects frighten me.

What frightens me most though is the idea that I’ll never truly become anything. I want to be a mother. I want to be a writer. I want to be able to climb out of my depths when I fall. I want to define myself outside of the life of an officer’s wife.

I assume we’ll have children. I ache for them. But I am so afraid I won’t be able to. If we do, I’m so scared that I’ll do something wrong. I want to be a good mother. Even though I have great parents, I have no idea what to do. Will I be alright? Will I even be able?

What will I regret the most? What will fill me with the most joy? Will I survive Cameron’s deployments? Will he? We’ve never had to deal with the uncertainty of months apart and I’m terrified that it will break me, or us.

I hope by 100 I’ll have everything figured out. I hope to accomplish the things I have set forth for myself to feel fulfilled. I hope Cameron is still with me at a cantankerous 103. I hope to have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to carry on in my passing. I hope to be unafraid. I hope to still be me.

With that, I’ll sign off. I hope to meet you one day.

-Me (28 years, 4 months, 29 days)

To my younger self,

At 28 we were living in Hawaii- weren’t we? In the course of Cameron’s career, we moved 8 times in 14 years. I recall Mr. Byrd though, and he was in the Hawaii days.

I’d forgotten how afraid and anxious I was back then. Everything seemed up to chance and I agonized over every decision, trying to see every way that it might impact my future. If there’s one thing I’d like you to know now, it’s not to worry so much. It never did any good.

Jobs will come and go. A stable career wasn’t exactly possible with Cameron in service. You’ll freelance write and teach music classes around the world. It will fill your time and make you feel useful.

Deployments will be hard. Cameron’s longest deployment was 11 months and 3 days, and I missed him the whole time. There will be temptations for you both. I can’t say you’ll be flawless. You’ll drink too much and one especially lonely night you’ll kiss another man.

That mistake will haunt you. Many women will have full-blown affairs and never feel an ounce of guilt. One kiss was enough to spiral into shame and never feel tempted again. Cameron forgave you in an instant, but it took longer for you to forgive yourself. Be careful with your heart.

There will be hardships. Nothing will shake you to your bones more than dad’s death. There are tales from antiquity of wailing women beating their breasts in grief. The modern age doesn’t allow for these demonstrations; grief is supposed to be kept impersonal. A post to your online profiles (there will be many) and insincere nods to condolences are all that’s expected. But you’ll know the primal urge to cry out to the universe and shout to the injustice that rips away someone you love.

Dad will be the first to strike you down, unexpected and earlier than you’d dreamed, but mom will follow in years, then others you’ll learn love along the way. People will say that time will heal the void, but it won’t. In time you’ll mold yourself around these gaps and learn to survive the loss. The wounds will never leave.

You’ll only ever try it once, and it was a feeble attempt.   Barely more than a nick below the heel of your hand that won’t even pierce the vein. The pearl of crimson will be enough to break the spell of despair and make you crave life again.

A miscarriage triggered the attempt. It was before we knew if we would have children, and not long after dad. Cameron was deployed. It was a perfect storm of hopelessness that left you teetering between numbness and a tear in the soul. I thought there was no way to soldier on. But we did.

Sometimes, all you need is a good dog. Even when you can’t take care of yourself and grow gaunt in despair, you won’t be able to keep from caring for a dog. And a dog will comfort and care for you when you feel alone. Rico, the Portuguese Water Dog, kept you going through that dark time, and within 2 years you were ripe with motherhood.

There will be moments of supreme joy. You will conceive, carry and birth a child. It will be the most terrifying action of your existence, but it will be worth it. You will get splendidly fat and happy in pregnancy. You will feel full to breaking with glee when you first see our child’s face. It will be covered in blood and birth, and even so you will hold her tight and smother her with kisses.

You will not be perfect. No parent is. Every cut, bruise, break or hardship she feels will cause you more anguish than her. You’ll blame yourself for every pain she ever meets, but know that it won’t be your fault. You can’t save her from living and if you could, it wouldn’t be worth having her.

Cameron will blossom in fatherhood. He will allow our girl to put clips in his short hair and drink countless cups of imaginary tea. You will fall more in love with him as he forgets all self-consciousness in order to make her happy. Those years when she is young will be the happiest and hardest you’ll ever know.

When Cameron goes, part of you will too. He was basically deaf at the end, and cancer had plagued him for years. I know it was a mercy. I know he hurt, but my selfish heart wanted him to stay with me for always. You’ll know by now that it wasn’t always rosy. We bickered constantly. But we only ever fought because we cared, and that caring won’t die with him.

Through it all, you became yourself. In our youth, we felt the need for titles, for acceptance and for validation from others. We fought doing anything for simple pleasure. We fought turning inward to see what in life would make us happy. We tried to always do what was within some outside view of what we thought the world intended for us. None of that really matters.

The world will continue to be beautiful yet hideous, exciting but mundane, frantic and still. It will continue to change beyond recognition, but stay constant. The same is true in us.

-Still Me (100 years and a day


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Big Bottoms

This may date me, or it may be a trait endemic to DJ’s the world over, but I’m fairly certain that every school dance I attended ended with “Baby Got Back” before the gym lights came on. (It was also likely preceded by KC and Jojo’s “All my Life.”) Thanks to Sir Mix-a-Lot, I knew what an anaconda did and did not want before I actually knew what an “anaconda” was.

Innuendo may have escaped me, but the knowledge that I lacked a bodacious behind did not.

My derriere has no curvature. From the side, it’s hard to tell which aspect is front or back. It’s pitiful. I’m confident that whoever invented these panties had me in mind. I’ve written about body acceptance before, and in general, I do make every effort to love my body, but man, sometimes I wish for a bum capable of breaking the Internet.

One of my besties has the opposite problem. She buys jeans that are too big in the waist to accommodate her backside. I asked her if I could write about her butt, and she agreed. There are good friends, and then there are the friends who are totally ok with it when you ask to write about their butts. (This is the same friend who had the unfortunate task of explaining to both of our mothers that Ginuwine isn’t actually an equine enthusiast.)

My galpal doesn’t understand my fascination with big booties. She thinks of it as a curse. She gets teased sometimes. She wishes she had a more even dispersal between breasts and butt. I can’t help but thinking boobs are great, but the poetic accolades attributed to bottoms far outweigh those for milk-makers.

Think about such greats as the “Thong Song,” “Bootylicious,” “Shake Your Groove Thing,” or my personal favorite, “Big Bottoms,” because how could you leave that behind? Boobs feel so tawdry by comparison.

As with most things, I suppose we always want what we can’t have. Despite countless squats and running literally thousands of miles, my fanny has never really shaped up. I’ll live. But I’ll always wonder what it feels like to actually fill out a pair of jeans and get noticed for it.

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Growing Up

The other day I was binge-watching shows on Netflix. It was a cop drama, my fave. The lady cop was going through a box of childhood belongings, and I saw a beanie baby in the mix.

My first thought? “She’s WAY too old to have played with beanie babies as a kid! I played with those! And she’s a grown-up cop!”

Wait a minute. She’s probably late 20’s, same as me.

Holy crap I’m an adult.

I have no clue when it happened, or how I managed not to notice. I’m married. I have several nieces and nephews. My husband and I are thinking about starting a family. I pay taxes. How did this escape me?

Somewhere a shift happened. I’m no longer in that “young” demographic. Teenage soap opera addiction aside (I love me some Pretty Little Liars), I have more in common with the parents in a sitcom than the kids. I’m no longer the youngest person in my office. In my head I’m still a teen.

Maybe that’s just how it goes. One day we realize that we’re in the next phase. We can’t stop the world from moving forward, and if we’re lucky, we’ll keep moving with it.

I’m older now than my mom was when she became a mother. Considering how little I know now, this fact is completely terrifying. It’s finally dawning on me that my parents really were making it up as they went along. I had always assumed that they knew everything. Now as I’m thinking of starting my own family, I realize that I’ll be doing the same.

There is no trick to adulthood. There is no one to tell you if you’re actually doing it right. Well, there are jerks who will give their 2 cents, but nobody really knows for sure. Not even Oprah.


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2014 Stats- I’m humbled and amazed

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


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To My Dear Niece Piper,

Piper and her Gramps taking a nap

Piper and her Gramps taking a nap

You cannot know this yet, but you are massive. At 4 months and 18+ pounds, you outweigh many healthy babies twice your age. You are over 26 inches long, which is literally off the growth chart. You, little-big-miss, are destined to be tall.

At my measly five-foot-nine-and-three-quarters inches tall, you will likely surpass me before reaching high school. I anticipate you will be well over 6 feet, just like my great aunt (your great-great-aunt) Rita. Above averageness tends to run in the family.

Usually, being tall will seem like the coolest blessing ever. You’ll stand out amongst, or above, your peers. But there is a responsibility that comes with being tall that is never fair.

Grown-ups will always assume you’re older than you are. Unfortunately, grown-ups generally judge age by measuring a kid against themselves. You won’t fit those guidelines. At 5 they’ll think you’re 7, and by 12 you’ll practically be an adult. You will always be held to a standard higher than your age requires.

There are also assumptions people make about tall folk. Get used to hearing the following four words: “do you play basketball?” Maybe you will. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like your mom and me, coordination and organized sports won’t really be your forte. Your mom once broke her foot trying to run backwards. That was the end of her volleyball career.

Good luck finding clothing that fits. I was wearing adult-sizes before the end of elementary school because I needed longer pants. You will almost never be able to find clothing in a regular department store, and will instead be a connoisseur of Internet retail.

Sometimes you’ll find height can be awkward. You will always be designated to put up posters and grab things from high shelves. You’ll need to stoop through some doorframes, and you’ll frequently be able to see over the top of bathroom stalls (try not to make eye contact). But you’ll learn to take it in your ultra long stride.

If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s to never let anyone make you feel like you’re un-feminine. Some boys will feel threatened by you, or think that you’re an Amazon warrior who cannot be tamed. But that’s their problem. You can be the girliest girl who wears platform pumps every day if you want. Or you can wear chucks and jeans if that’s what suits you. Always remember that it’s your choice to decide who you want to be.

So Piper Jane, that’s what I’ve got for you. You’ll be the envy of many, and you’ll probably never need a stepping stool. With giant parents to guide you, I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

Love,

Auntie J

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