Heavy boots

Has anyone read the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close?  

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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I read it when I was in high school or college, I can’t remember…but it is one of those life feels novels that has always stuck with me. I know it became a movie, but I never saw it. The book was so deep and so emotional for me that I knew I could never sit through it without the type of crying where you shake and heave and can’t get yourself back together. Maybe I’ll brave that on a night in alone.

Anyway, it’s a really great book and if you haven’t read it, you really should (among many others).

I think about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close all the time, especially when the going gets tough. The main character, Oskar, describes this feeling of “heavy boots.” He’s a young kid trying to figure out his father’s death, and throughout the story, he tells of things that give him really heavy boots – the perfect way to describe grief through a child’s eyes. My brother and I say it to each other from time to time when something is really sad. You know, when something really weighs on you. I picture trying to walk through sludge with big, heavy, clunky shoes on, trudging step after step and feeling so heavy and feeling so much despair that it’s all I can do to lift my next foot one more time.

Isn’t that life sometimes? Trudging through, putting one foot in front of the other, and barely making it?

I recently experienced the loss of someone very special. That sounds so cliche and so easy to say. “Special” doesn’t even scratch it. Words simply are not enough. The sadness, the despair, and the harsh reality of having someone ripped away from you too soon is so much worse, and cuts more deeply than you can really ever describe. I have dealt with loss, but not like this. We love hard, and when we lose what we love, we feel it. Hard.

Sometimes I think that if we all collected our heavy boots, and we put them in a pile, it would be too big of a pile for this world to bear and we would make a huge pit, sinking deeper and deeper. There is so much sadness in the world, so much fear and loneliness and heart wrenching stories of people who have it worse than we do.

And yet, of course I am the type of person who also knows how much beauty there is in the world…that for every heavy boot, there is a light, carefree shoe – a new birth, a joyous wedding, a love story, a shoulder to lean on, and a chance to start again. And in time, I will be able to see it. I know God has a plan, but as humans, it is hard to see the plan when something devastating occurs.

I know that the sun will come out again, but for now, I am wearing really heavy boots.

Grief quote

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Real talk + immense gratitude

So far, this summer has been completely overwhelming. As soon as school let out, I picked up 2 other jobs in addition to teaching yoga, on top of covering 3 extra yoga classes and some desk shifts for about a month. I am not complaining, and of course I did it to myself; I always do it to myself, and I know that. I understand that I am crazy. I have no chill and I don’t know how to just say no to things. I am rational enough to look at my planner on any given week and say:  Too much, Jules. Too much. I want to do everything and help everyone out when they ask me, and while I constantly work on finding a balance between that and keeping my sanity, I am so thankful to have friends and family who love me in every season of life and show their love in a million different ways.

Andrew has been so understanding and patient with my hectic schedule this summer, on top of dealing with his own life stuff going on – he always has big bear hugs and back scratches for me and drives to see me whenever he can. My roommate Lauryn has been surprising me with little good deeds here and there, taking care of the dishes or vacuuming, folding my laundry, or making a delicious dinner for when I get home from a long day at work. My BFF Whitney still manages to keep up with me and find time to hang out together whenever our schedules can link up, in the midst of a full-time job, house hunt, and fast-growing photography business. My other best friend Lindsay came all the way from Nashville to spend time with me the same week that a huge tree fell on her house and car. My family is always there to listen, give encouragement, and let me vent.

I don’t regret taking on these jobs and opportunities this summer – but I have made some promises to myself lately, one of which is to take it   e   a   s   y   next summer when I am supposed to be taking it easy. What good is a summer break when you’re working three jobs?! I read an article recently about saying no more often. Part of the article reads:

“I learned the importance of saying ‘no’ a long time ago…It’s the most important skill you can practice if you want to say ‘yes’ to the things that matter to you the most.”

I am trying to remember that saying no can be a great way to say yes…to yourself and to your own needs. This is a constant struggle in my life and hopefully I will be able to master it a little bit better in order to focus on the most important people and things in my life.

So today, I am thankful. I am thankful that I have thoughtful and constant friends, family, and a boyfriend who, time and time again, show me what love is and support me completely, especially in the times when I feel like I am drowning. We forget that we don’t have to do everything alone. That there are people surrounding us who can lighten our loads if we let them. I am truly too blessed to be stressed, and I’m working on lowering my commitments so I can focus on the little things in life – like getting a good night of sleep, reading for fun, practicing yoga in my pajamas, and spending uninterrupted, undistracted, quality time with the people who have stuck with me this far.

To all of you – you know who you are – thank you, and I love you. 

Goal Digger

The last few weeks, I’ve been putting a lot of thought and effort into goals and plans for the future.  I’ve been teaching my students about goal planning and resource management, so last week we discussed short-term, long-term, and even visionary goals.  I am always surprised to hear what some of my students’ goals are; many of them have general goals to go to college, be happy, get married and have kids, etc.  But then there are those students who write things like “One day I hope to become a child Psychologist, focusing in play therapy.”  Or students who already have their plan to start a successful business during high school, selling handmade items like key chains, dog collars, leashes, monogrammed items, etc.  As cheesy as it sounds, I know I’m supposed to inspire my students, but a lot of times it’s the other way around.

I have always been the person who loves to write things down, so lately I’ve been making lists of my goals and mapping out plans.  I recently started a couple of summer jobs that have already begun before school is out, so I’ve spent some time really planning out how I’m going to manage all of that and still stay on top of my personal and financial goals.  I was feeling so excited about my lists and my plans and my visions for the future.  Coincidentally, my best friend and talented photographer Whitney recently attended a beautiful and informative wedding photography workshop and was thinking about her own goals and dreams.  We discussed making vision boards soon so we can help ourselves stay focused on our dreams and goals.

I got this ‘AHA’ moment and had the idea to have my students create vision boards.  I rearranged my lesson plans to fit in two days of hard work.  I read several articles and tutorials online and finally ended up modifying this page to create my own instructions for my high school students.  At first, they were very typical high school students:  “Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  MISS WEAVER.  We have so many projects in here.”  “AND we have a test this week?!”  But the funny thing is, after about 15 minutes of really getting into their projects and planning out their pictures and what to include on their vision boards, they started feeling it.  They drank the Kool-Aid.

This is a picture of what I wrote on the board as their quick glance go-to while working on their vision boards.  The actual instructions sheet was much more detailed.

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Please, please, forgive me for the iPhone photo quality here – you can’t always grab your go-to photographer when you’re at work in the middle of the school day to come take high quality photos of your students’ work.  Here are some of the products of their hard work.

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I am so proud of those kids.  It really doesn’t matter what your goals are, as long as they mean something to you.  There’s nothing wrong with being driven and striving to accomplish personal milestones.  Just make sure to enjoy your life and your ups and downs on the way there.

I have always had big dreams, and sometimes I feel like I haven’t done enough – but when I look at my life, I’ve done some pretty awesome things and checked off some big items on my bucket list already.  Who knows what the next year or two of life will bring?  So I’m focusing on crushing my goals and also remembering to take care of myself and enjoy the ride.  There are a million paths to reach one destination, and that’s part of the fun of being a goal digger.

soul on fire

possibility everywhere
you got this
goals plans
small minds

 

Love yoself

A year ago, I moved out on my own and left a 7 year relationship and life plan behind.  In so many ways, that was a decision that I am thankful for.  Looking back exactly a year later, it is crazy to think of all of the things the past year has held, both good and bad, strange and wonderful.  Most importantly, however, that decision has helped me realize that I am worth loving, and the person whose love I am most worthy of is my own.  I realized this past year that sometimes we don’t necessarily lose ourselves, we just forget ourselves.  We put other peoples’ wants and needs and goals and beliefs before our own, and slowly we begin to fade back behind the scenes without even realizing it.  I’m not here to badmouth or trash talk, but here I am a year later, stronger than I knew I could be and happier with myself and my life than I have ever been, with huge dreams and goals on the horizon (I also accidentally just typed “goalz” and now I’m a bit tickled).

My point is, my life isn’t perfect, but I am really happy with the normal ups and downs. Between them, there is this constant, ever-present content that I am right where I need to be, and that God will take care of the rest.  I’ve done a lot of soul-searching in the last year and a half of my life, and here are some things I deeply believe:

  1. Love yourself first, and then find someone who loves you with all your flaws and weird quirks and doesn’t want to change a single thing about you, even if it drives them crazy.  It is really difficult for people to change, so find someone you can love completely without any conditions or ultimatums, and expect the same.
  2. We are complete.  We are already enough.  We don’t need to wait for x, or y, or z to fall into place to finally begin accepting ourselves.  Any improvements on who we already have become are great, but not necessary to our self-worth.
  3. Through all of life’s twists and turns, happy moments and trying times, keep your values, keep your morals, keep your beliefs.  Keep your hobbies.  Keep your lady dates.  Keep whatever it is that makes you you.  
  4. Deliberately, mindfully, until it sticks, change the conversation from “I hate this about myself” to “Here is something I DO like about myself.”  There is nothing wrong with setting goals and wanting to improve, but until you are content with where you are, it’s an uphill battle.  Give yourself a little bit of a break and some credit.
  5. No one is perfect.  Duh.  We know this, yet we still constantly compare ourselves to others who seem to have it better than us.  “Better” is relative.  Everyone has problems, stresses, doubts, fears, something about them that they wish they could change.  People will generally show you the best parts of their life because no one wants to admit that life kicks them in the ass from time to time.  So accept that you are human and stop looking for perfect.  You will never find it.
    if i asked you
    don't question your beauty
    obsess about good things
    i am my own

I’ll keep my list short and sweet.  Life goes on and the world keeps on spinning even if it feels like everything has stopped for a while.  Ultimately, you are in charge of your life and your happiness, and most of us aren’t kind enough to ourselves.  We have to give ourselves some grace.  There’s a difference between motivation and cutting yourself down, or even worse, allowing yourself to be cut down by someone else.

I recently showed a video to my Parenting and Child Development students and a quote has been really sticking with me.  It may seem cheesy, but let it sink in for a second and humor me:  the quote described how we have to make a child feel that they are “a wanted individual, worthy of survival.”  Worthy of survival…damn, that’s deep.  It hit me hard and I realized that there are people in this world who need to be reminded of this.  So here is everyone’s reminder, brought to you by a required video from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

A lot of really fantastic things have happened in my life since this time last year.  I went back to teaching, got my yoga certification, I’ve spent really valuable time with people who I love and who lift me up, I’m writing an e-book about teaching, I started my blog, and I met someone who makes me feel so special and treats me like a queen.  Life can get you pretty good sometimes, but it doesn’t have to break you.

I have a couple of MantraBands that I bought from my yoga studio…I’m all about good feels and pretty things.  One of my bracelets simply says, “You are enough.”  I am, and you are, and we all are.  But here’s a new one I’ve been trying on lately:  Treat yoself.  Be yoself.  Love yoself.

You deserve it just as much as anybody else.

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Photo credits to jParker photography

Take it slow

I’ve been in a little bit of a funk the last few weeks.  I’ve spent some time hibernating at home, watching Netflix and not accomplishing many items on my constant to-do list.  Mindless time in between the packed schedule I can’t seem to trim down.  I’ve done a lot of that this winter, actually.  The cold months can have their perks, but most of the time I just find myself dreaming of the sunshine and stuffing my face with fruits and vegetables bottomless carbs.

I’ve been trying to figure out what the funk is all about, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Things are wonderful at school – I’m so happy to be back in the classroom – things are great in my personal life, the doggies bring me tons of joy (but they are destroyers of belongings as usual)…so what is the issue?  I hate feeling down in the dumps or sorry for myself, so this has been a long funk that also includes frustration at not being able to ‘fix’ it.

This past week was incredibly busy for me.  It was another one of those weeks where literally every day on my planner was full from 6:15 when I leave for school in the morning until bedtime.  A lot of it was stuff I wanted to do, with people I love, but by Friday  night I was completely drained and exhausted; I felt like I was 100 years old, and the weekend had even more commitments coming.  Someone very wise spoke to me about stretching myself too thin and needing to practice prioritizing and saying no…keeping some time in my life for just me.  That sounds so easy, right?  And some people are really good at doing that.  Trust me, this very wise person is not the first person to bring this up to me.  One of my problems has always been not taking enough time for myself.  I’m a social butterfly; I feel happy when I’m around others.  I feel most satisfied and productive when my hands are on a million projects and I’m working towards goals.  In fact, even with all of my plans and commitments, now that I’ve earned my yoga teaching certification, I still find myself thinking…what’s next?

My only resolution for 2016 was to take care of myself better – mind, body, soul.  This, to me, covered everything.  Sleep, exercise, nutrition, well-being, respecting myself, loving myself, improving myself…I haven’t done very well so far.  I end up trying to do too much and then I can’t do everything with 100% concentration or give things the full attention they deserve.  I’m not getting enough sleep, I haven’t been putting effort into feeding my body good foods, I haven’t been doing the things that usually bring me joy because I’ve been doing so much and trying so hard to get the next thing done that I’m not taking the time I need to enjoy my own time and just.  Slow.  Down.

After this wise person told me I needed to slow down, I tried to talk myself out of it a little bit and brush it off – “This is just who I’ve always been.”  I went to yoga class on Saturday morning with some girlfriends, and the theme was about this dilemma exactly – putting the needs of others before our own.  Doing things, or not doing things, because we are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings so much that we’d rather let ourselves suffer than just be honest.  That’s my work.  It’s something I have worked on my entire life.  I am a people pleaser by nature, and I love spending time with my friends, keeping busy, and making sure everything is running smoothly.  I am so quick to agree to doing things and feeling like I can do it all, but inevitably something falls short…and usually what falls short is taking care of myself.

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Newsflash to myself and to anyone out there with my same plight:  We are not designed to do it all.  We are not made to go a million miles per hour through  life, a tornado of do and go and keep pushing.  Another quote landed on me hard in yoga class tonight:  “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”  This is the only moment we have.  Nothing stays – even our breath, our evidence of life, has to be exhaled.  We have to enjoy every single right now that we have.  We have to learn to take it slow, to stop and smell the roses.

We’re all so busy trying to figure out the meaning of life, the one thing that we have been put on this earth to do.  We want to make sure we are making the right choices, following the right path, creating the right opportunities and relationships for ourselves.  We need to have all of the answers right now, and we need to get to all of our goals yesterday so we can start living the life we’ve always dreamed of.  But the truth is that we are already living our lives in every single moment.  If we allow ourselves to keep focusing on the destination, we will miss the entire blissful, broken, agonizingly beautiful journey.  We feel torment over so many things that we can’t control instead of just trusting that there is a plan already in place.  A lot of my friends are experiencing this same search:  who am I, what do I want, what is my purpose?  I have done a lot of searching for these answers myself in the past year.  These questions are important, but at some point, you just have to live your life and let the rest fall into place.  Take a break from trying to do everything, or figure everything out.  Just be still, and appreciate wherever you are and whatever is going on in your life that brings you joy.

This morning, when I opened my Passion Planner, the quote for this week read:  “There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.”  I agree with this idea, but I had to remind myself that slowing down and taking it easy to make time for yourself is not time wasted.  It is necessary in order to recharge and keep living a life with purpose.  So for this week, I didn’t make any plans that weren’t for me.  I’m hibernating again, but this time it won’t be time wasted – I’ll be going to yoga classes, relaxing, reading, cooking good meals, maybe taking a bath or two, getting to sleep on time, and hanging with my corgis.  And yeah, fine…maybe a tiny bit of mindless Netflix and fruits & veggies Dove dark chocolate.  It’s called balance, people!

Enjoy your moments.  Stop racing to the finish line, and take some time for yourself if you’ve been letting yourself fall to the wayside.  You need it, you deserve it, and you should make yourself your first priority.  It’s like the flight attendants say – put your oxygen mask on first before helping someone else.  You have to take care of yourself first.

I think the funk has finally lifted.  🙂

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As always, photo credits go to J Parker Photography – my beautiful and talented best friend.  

Leap, and the net will appear.

Happy New Year!  I love this time of year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, the new year…so many opportunities to spend time with loved ones, get a little time off, eat delicious food, and enjoy festive decorations (most importantly, there are endless opportunities for soft clothes).  I’ll be honest…my Christmas decorations are still up.  I’ll get around to that this weekend if I HAVE to.

We went back to school yesterday, so I’m slowly trying to get back in the swing of things.  With the new year, I can’t help but think about 2015.  As cheesy as it sounds, 2015 wasn’t so bad, in the end.  I had stumbles, challenges, and despair, but I also found strength I didn’t know I possessed, hope in impossible situations, and light where there had been darkness.  With the start of 2016, I feel like where I’m standing is a wonderful place to be, and I can’t complain.  How much do we complain, when we have air in our lungs and shoes on our feet and roofs over our heads?  We have so few things to complain about when it really comes down to it.  Jobs, money, weight, wardrobe, friend drama…it all comes and goes.  We should be making New Year’s resolutions to be thankful for today, every day.  I have no idea what’s coming in 2016, and I really, really don’t mind.  The best part about life is that you  have the power to decide on good days and bad days, happy and hopeful or sad and regretful.  It’s okay to experience sadness, it’s okay to experience anger or stress or strife…but what makes a difference is the way we handle it and the way we let it grip us…or the way we let go.

Last week, I had my yoga teacher audition for the studio I’ve been taking my yoga training from.  I signed up at the end of the summer – a HUGE leap of faith for me, considering I could count on my hands the number of yoga classes I had taken up to that point.  My theme for my audition was about letting go and embracing the unknown.  Leaping into the unknown with grace and strength, and letting go of what we can’t control…something I still need to be reminded of all the time.

There is a quote we discussed in class one yoga teacher training weekend:  “Leap, and the net will appear.”  So often, we wait to ‘be ready’ for something.  One of the best lessons my mother ever taught me is that if you wait to ‘be ready’ for something, you will never be ready.  You just have to jump.  Leap…and if it’s right, the net will somehow, every time, magically appear.  I liked the quote so much, I ordered some beautiful hand-lettered and painted wood slices for some of my dearest friends and some of my yoga people (please check out @between_lines_by_b on Instagram!  She is one of my friends from Meredith College and graduate school at NC State, and she’s wildly talented!).  Here is her Etsy shop.
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Today’s post is about the leap I took when I decided to sign up for yoga teacher training.  Some of you have asked for this, so it is informative, but also includes some of the ‘juicy’ details of training that you might want to know about.

Most importantly, I have spent several jam-packed weekends with a close group of women (and one man!) who have taught me so much.  I can’t express in words the gratitude, respect, and love I have for these wonderful human beings.  I have formed wonderful friendships and connections from this experience that I truly hope will last.  Each person in the group brings something different to the table, as we all do.  Probably my favorite thing about yoga is that it really is for everyone.  It’s one of those things, like music, food, or rooting for the underdog, that brings people together who would never have crossed paths otherwise.  I love that. 

Our weekends of training are intense:  8 weekends over six months of Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 8am-8pm, and Sunday 8am-6pm.  We get lunch breaks on Saturday and Sunday, but it is a big commitment.  Any place that you get training from will be different – some do the weekend format, others do weekdays, others go straight through day after day and knock it all out at once.  You just have to find the one that works for you and read reviews to see if it will be a good fit.  There are also many different lineages of yoga, so you will want to read up and see what type of yoga teacher training you want to take.  I was completely  new to yoga when I decided to join, and I honestly didn’t do any research on other trainings.  My friend nudged me to do the training with her, and I loved my studio so much I just trusted my gut and jumped in – I got really lucky because I can’t imagine taking training from anywhere else.  Still, it’s a personal preference and you should find what fits you best.

My yoga teacher training is through Hot Asana University (reviews on Yoga Alliance here).  The owner of the studio I practice at, Virginia Gallagher, created Hot Asana studio in Southern Pines and since then has opened studios in several other cities and states, including Hot Asana Durham, where I practice.   Virginia and Angela Hsu have led our training; they are two women that I have big love and respect for.  They are both so knowledgeable, kind, patient, and make you feel completely at ease.  My training was a 200 hour yoga teacher training focused on hot vinyasa flow classes.  I am trained to teach multi-level drop-in classes.  When I graduate January 10 (this Sunday!), I will be able to register with the Yoga Alliance to be a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200).  Just like with teaching public education, the Yoga Alliance has requirements for continuing education and keeping your certification current.

Our weekends consist of so much information – we have covered yoga alignment basics, we have done clinics of every pose, learned some basic anatomy information, and discussed the principles of sequencing a class.  We have learned a 60 minute sequence that we can use and adapt, we have created our own classes, taught our training group our own sequences in the studio, and practiced yoga together each day we have met.  Other training information has included books we have read, meditation techniques and practice to learn to sit still with yourself, and a lot of deep conversations about life and how it connects to the eight limb path of yoga and just being a better person.  We have had spiritual and religion talks, energy talks, learned about our chakras, and have shared parts of ourselves with each other that are dear to me and close to my heart.  So much of what happens in yoga teacher training stays in yoga teacher training, but I feel like I have a seriously solid foundation in the principles of yoga, not just physically.

Through the 200 hour training, practicing yoga has become so much more for me than just going to take a class in a hot room and breaking a good sweat.  It has been a mind, body, soul transformation and it has forced even a lovey dovey, touchy feely person like me out of my comfort zone.  My spiritual journey has also gotten so much more complex since starting yoga teacher training.  It has made me really take a good look at myself, question some things, and stand fast by others.  Yoga is for the weak, the strong, the inflexible, the tired, the hopeful, the hopeless, and the faithful.  It is what brings us all to our mats together, no matter how high or low on our horses we are in the day to day.  Yoga reminds us that we are all connected, and that we need to respect ourselves and each other.  I think that anyone with an open mind and caring heart can grow immensely through yoga teacher training, even if there is no intent to teach yoga classes.  The personal growth and strength I have gained through these last few months is priceless.

I got the word on New Year’s Day that I will start teaching classes at Hot Asana studio in Durham in just a couple of weeks.  I was so delighted…not a bad way to start out a new year!  I feel really blessed (too blessed to be stressed, even), and I’m really looking forward to what the next little bit of my life will bring.  I took a few big leaps in 2016, making a huge relationship change, moving, going back to teaching, starting yoga training…and it has ended up to be such a blessing.  We should all take leaps of faith, even if we’re not sure we’re ‘ready’ yet.  Leap, and the net will appear.  If that isn’t enough to convince you…2016 just so happens to be a leap year.

 

Let there be light.

Laura – this one is for you.

I just came off of a weekend of yoga teacher training (I haven’t forgotten that I owe some of you a post on that!).  Teacher training always gets me deep in my feels, and it’s almost like a high I have to come down from to face reality again on Monday.  This training weekend was particularly special, though, because I taught my very first class with a partner who has become a dear friend to me.  It felt like winning the lottery.  On top of that, I caught a class tonight taught by the owner of my yoga studio who is also one of the best teachers I know and a woman who oozes strength, love, and elegance.  Her theme for class was so right for what I was planning on writing tonight.  It was about appreciating and loving yourself, and knowing that you have to live through the tough parts of life, the challenges that come your way, and welcome them.  Seize each challenge as an opportunity, and you will come out on the other end stronger than you ever imagined.

I am a happy person.  Especially by my teenage students, I get asked very frequently how I am ‘this happy’ or if I have always been ‘this happy.’  The truth, as far back as I can remember, is yes.  I have always been ‘this happy.’  That doesn’t mean I haven’t had my moments of darkness.  None of us can escape the traumas of human life.  Those of you who know me know that this time last year, I was in a strange life place, trying to figure myself out.  I was attached to an idea, a future, a person, and a plan…and we all know how much I love my plans.  When things started to crumble, I started asking a lot of questions.  I don’t know how to explain it without getting too into it, other than to say I felt like I was living in a hazy reality where I could both see who I was and who I wanted to be, but I could also see who I was trying to be in order to fit someone else’s mold.  I was trying so hard to go against my truest self that I completely lost myself.  And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel happy at all.  I felt utterly terrified.  But the further I let myself get away from that attachment, that plan, that future, the more I realized it was never my future or my anchor to hold onto.  And as cheesy and as silly as it might come across, my yoga practice and teacher training has been a huge part of that realization.  I feel free.  I am finally, finally loving myself exactly where I sit, and I am finally, finally letting go of needing to be anything for anyone.  I am healthy, I am stronger than I have ever given myself credit for, and I am finally so content in my life, completely by myself and standing on my own two feet.  This is me.  I am enough.  And so are you.

So yes, I was always ‘this happy,’ but I feel like I allowed my light to be dimmed for so long, truly without even knowing it, that it was silently building momentum.  And now I’m tearing and clawing my way out of myself loud and proud, and I have so much love and light to share.  When I was teaching yesterday for the first time, I felt a huge love for the strong and stunning women I am learning with and practicing beside.  I felt honored to lead them through a 60 minute practice.  And I felt a deep respect for our beautiful teachers who are leading us through this journey, supporting us and holding our hearts in their hands through this intense 200 hour training.  For those of you who think yoga is just about poses, which is what I used to think, stay tuned for a reality check on that.

For me, teaching is a great way to share my light and my love.  Helping people is what I feel like I was born to do, whether it’s through public education, yoga teaching, getting my personal training certification, and whatever else life might bring my way.  I ignored it for a while, but after giving subtle hints and gentle suggestions, eventually life slaps you right in the face.  We all have a light, a gift to give, and the world can take it from us so easily if we let it.  We allow ourselves to be brought down, to believe in the worst, to create situations in our minds that are inaccurate or will never happen.  We give other people the power to drag us down and we put all of our eggs into baskets that were never meant to hold them.  I know this because I am guilty, too.  There are a lot of heavy things out there, and the weight can be a lot to bear.  But if we choose to dig deep, to fight for what makes us who we are, if we demand to be cherished for exactly who we are and for what makes us shine…and most importantly, if we look ourselves in the soul and forgive ourselves for being imperfect, for being human – if we love ourselves right where we sit – we lighten our own loads.  We also lighten our loads by lifting others up when they need it the most.  You have no idea when your smile, hug, or even your hello can be the very particle of love someone needs to cradle their aching heart.

In order to counterbalance the darkness, we need to keep the light.  We need to be the light.  We have to share the light.  

Michael Xavier The Message

For those of you who love a life soundtrack like I do – check out ‘Worth Fighting For’ by Emily Hearn.  It’s about you.

Too blessed to be stressed.

We are so quick to be automatic – in our actions, in our habits, our responses to people.  When someone asks, “How are you?” we generally give the, “Doing well/I’m good/Fine, how are you?”  This is something I have tried to change in my life.  I try out new phrases:  I can’t complain, everything is fantastic, life is good, etc. and then I make sure to let the other person know that I really care when I ask how they’re doing, too.  One of my favorite responses to give, though, is, “Too blessed to be stressed.”  I’ve noticed that I get a nice chuckle out of most people when I use that one.

When I was teaching full time a couple of years ago and enrolled full-time in grad school, I did my fair share of waiting tables. The owners of the restaurant I worked at, Salem Street Pub, gave all of the servers a little Christmas gift each year – and P.S. If you’ve never been there, check it out for some delicious burgers, local beer, and a perfect laid-back vibe.  One year, I got a painted wine glass with a blonde lady on it that read, “Too blessed to be stressed.”  It was kind of meant to be a silly and funny gift, but I have thought about that wine glass so often because it became a phrase that I started to use whenever things didn’t go my way.

One morning last week, I was running late for school, frantically trying to make my breakfast smoothie, a cup of coffee, get my lunch together, get my dogs together, get my life together…I reached up too quickly and knocked down the ‘too blessed to be stressed’ wine glass; it crashed into a million pieces.  I breathed in, and then I breathed out, because yoga has taught me to find the gap between stimulus and response, and in that few short seconds I just told myself to let it go.  It’s just a wine glass, Jules.  Freaking out, shouting, cussing, letting myself get in a bad mood – none of that would serve me or help me get to school on time.  But how often do we do just that, over the tiniest moments?  So I shooed my dogs away from the broken glass, looked at them, and literally said out loud, “It’s okay guys.  We are too blessed to be stressed about a broken wine glass on a Tuesday.”

And isn’t that the truth?  We create so much stress for ourselves in life – I have been there and I do it, too, believe me.  But sometimes we have to realize that there is beauty in even the ugliest situations, there is a reason for everything, and that the glass is always half full if you choose to see it that way.

I encourage you, me, all of us, to enjoy our moments.  Realize that you have a b  e  a  u  t  i  f  u  l life, simply because you are alive.  Every day, try to find something that you can appreciate, even if all you can appreciate that day is the air in your lungs or the heart beating in your chest or the working brain in your head.  We are all moving through this life, living in a society full of negativity, superficiality, and greed.  But it’s also a dazzling world of love, complexity, and optimism if you choose to see it.  We spend so much time stressing about the future and the past that we act out of habit and repetition and we forget to be right here, right now.  By being content and appreciating our moments, we teach ourselves to be less greedy, less negative, less superficial.  We slowly minimize our stress and realize that most of the things we worry about aren’t even worth our time, because the scenarios we create in our head never end up as we see them, anyway.

We are too blessed to be stressed.  Believe that.  Some things are worth our attention, but so many aren’t.  Let go of what doesn’t serve you and focus on the joys in your life – it might be harder to choose joy, but it is far superior to living in self-created stress and negativity.

If anyone finds a cute graphic tee to add to my embarrassing collection of quoted clothing, let me know 😉

Love this 'Too Blessed To Be Stressed' Metallic Canvas by Image Canvas on #zulily! #zulilyfinds:

Follow your bliss.

Is this thing on?

Hi!  Welcome to MAXOUThappy.  I feel like a first blog post is always going to be kind of an awkward leap, but here it is.  I started really thinking about my life, and life in general, a few months ago.  Very long story short, I was kind of in a dark and strange place, and I felt like I had really lost myself over the last few years.  I know what my values are, I know what I want out of life…but I hadn’t really checked in with myself in a while.  What do I like?  What are my hobbies?  Have they changed?  Have I changed?  What are my short-term, long-term, and visionary goals?  All of this was combined with feeling like I was being a big say-er, and not a big do-er.  I have always talked a lot of noise about writing a book, writing a blog, losing weight, being fit, doing this or that, and I finally realized that I was the only person who was standing in my way.  Sounds simple, right?  But it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I thought back to all the times I’ve ‘started fresh’ and tried to get on board with something new, and then it slowly but surely trickled away…and a song lyric popped into my head, as they tend to do:  It’s time to begin, isn’t it?  I deserve to just do me, and not worry about anything or anyone else.  This is my journey, it’s my life, these are my goals…so I decided to ‘start fresh’ and never stop this time.    

I felt like I had made a lot of excuses for myself, as we all do – and I’m not trying to put myself down here; it’s just the human condition.  The “I’m too busy”s and the “I’ll get to it later”s just pile up and before you know it, you have let yourself down and broken promise after promise to yourself…and as silly as that sounds, you should be the last person you break a promise to!

I made a pact with myself to be more of a do-er.  Try new things.  Put myself out there.  Be brave.  Try being more spontaneous and focus daily on being a happy and positive person.  Get in tune with myself again.  I got started on a lot of things I want to follow through on.  I started practicing yoga, I focused on being active, spending more time with myself, journaling…I made time for reading again, I began writing an e-Book about teaching with a coworker, I stopped being so crazy about calculating meals and calories and I drank some a lot of wine and ate some a good bit of delicious food without feeling guilty about it.  I started to seek out a really balanced life in all areas.  I made a huge career decision to go back to the classroom.  Finally, I enlisted the help of a sweet friend to create my logo and signature for this blog, and after several geeky and alliteration-heavy blogging brainstorm sessions, my lovely sister helped me find the perfect name for what you are reading now.

I watched a fabulously feel-good documentary called Finding Joe about the hero’s journey in literature and film…it’s all about going for what you believe in and following your dreams, even when you are afraid.  When you ‘slay your dragons,’ the film says, you have to face the deepest parts of yourself.  Once you can accept them, and even appreciate them, you gain the courage to move past your fears and “follow your bliss.”  Isn’t that what we all want?  To find our bliss – to be content in our lives and to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.  Some people stay where it’s safe and comfortable so they never have to fail or feel pain…but that sounds like a cop out to me.  The day is today; the time is now.  If you wait until you’re ready for something, you won’t ever get wherever it is you are hoping to go.  The more times we fall, the more times we get back up, the closer we get to finding our bliss.  I have taken some pretty big leaps in the last little bit of my life, and it is scary as hell, but I also can’t think of a time when I have ever felt more alive or excited for what’s coming.

So…what does MAXOUThappy mean?  It means never settling for second best, never taking what you don’t deserve, and above all, maximizing every single aspect of your life – friendships, romance, fitness, health, work, travel, whatever it may be.  MAXOUThappy is about living and loving your life, but most importantly, loving yourself, because we are all enough.  Life is short, and we’ve only got one…we better live it to the max.

bliss