This is a column I write for the Hudson Valley magazine "Healthy You".


Holding My Breath
February 10, 2017

Truly Julie: Holding My Breath


At 5 pm when my last massage client left I waited a few minutes before letting my cat Chickpea out for his final patrol of the day. Sometimes I accompany him on this last round to assure his safety. Last month I was watching the sky for predators as our hawk count has tripled with the warm winter and this month it is a fox that has put me on high alert. Chickpea is so slight now that when he purrs it rocks his slim body from side to side and as I run my hand down his back it is nothing but fur and bones. 

Fourteen years ago, when my little farm on Joy Road was a sanctuary for injured wildlife, he showed up one day. I thought he was a neighbor’s cat because he wore a collar. I didn’t want a cat but I liked how he came every day to help me with chores. I had rounds to make, barns to clean, squirrels and ducks and goats to feed. And it was nice to have a big muscular orange cat for company. 

After Chickpea followed me into the barn to feed the three goats and their barn companions Wingsy the chicken and Darlin’ the duck, we would hustle along the stream to several feeding stations and then back to the garage where he watched me feed the injured animals in their kennels. Then he would lead me around back and claw the trunk of the mulberry tree next the house.  That was all he needed and then he’d trot through the paddock into the adjacent playground and I’d lose sight of him once he got to the marsh. 

January of that year, when the temp had plummeted to ten below zero, he appeared outside my second story bedroom window. His face was a mask of ice. I let him in just to warm up. I phoned a neighbor to see if she wanted a cat but she said he had chosen me and I knew it was true. He’d done the work, he’d courted me over the summer and fall, and now the least I could do was warm him and give him some food.  I spent the next two years trying to locate his owner all the while hoping there wasn’t one.

The melding of our lives happened gradually, almost imperceptibly, as it can with those of us who live solitary lives. Communion with a cat takes time to mature, and it is irreversible. And even with all these years he is still a treasure of new discoveries. Lately he has taken to putting one paw on my head in the morning to rouse me. I feign sleep and he brings the other paw in for a good thorough combing of my hair. He still rings the lone bell hanging from a Christmas ribbon on the front door whenever he wants to get in. He’ll even do it when I’m out there with him as if we both have someone who will open the door for us. And now I’ve been holding my breath for two years when out of nowhere my big strong cat was struck down with kidney failure.

It is 5:55 pm. I just came in from watching a slender red fox trot through our paddock into the adjacent playground. Something had inspired me to open the door and when I did, Chickpea, his bony spine rounded, dashed back into the house. I slid out the door to study the fox as it trotted through the tall grass. I stood barefoot on a stump transfixed for twenty minutes watching the fox until like Chickpea, all those many years ago, I lost sight of him once he got to the marsh. 



 


 
Truly Julie: Beauty For Ashes
August 3, 2016

Something is changing within me. It's almost as if someone has flipped a switch. I have out grown the space in which I live. I know that change is both inevitable and impossible. Yet I find myself compelled by an inner genetic code that this is the time to make significant, life-changing decisions. It's like the caterpillar making her journey to just the right position because she knows that change must come. That is the way it is for me. I have a sense of knowing that my time has come and that I need to fully participate and cooperate with this deepening, refining, and liberating moment in my life.

Growth is never easy but the transition can be smooth or turbulent. At least a part of that is for me to decide. It’s time I leave worthless things behind – weights and unnecessary burdens, and thoughts that have hindered me as they make their continuous cycle in my mind.  Yesterday I had such an authentic moment where who I really am just appeared and it was a revelation. Like the caterpillar making her metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly, my transformation is destined to take place. And I want to grow upward into the next level available to me. Like that butterfly, I want to break free from my fears, insecurities and everything that rises against my desire to live a good and healthy life.  I’m ready to shed this cocoon because it is full of useless ideas about myself that hurt me and limit my ability to function at my highest potential. Its not healthy for me to think that I am not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, intelligent enough, loved enough or gifted enough.

In these last few months I have had to push against that tough cocoon that surrounded me. I was wrapped up in my old patterns and problems and I knew I had to get out to save my life.  I realized just yesterday that one of the reasons I am called to help others when they are in desperate situations is because they are stuck just like I was or still am. Helping someone else get set free is sometimes a lot easier than setting myself free.  

If human hands were to help the butterfly by cutting her out of the cocoon, her wings would be drooped and unable to take flight. Even with divine help we each seem to have to push through our own barriers, shed our old selves and let go of our ashes if we truly want the beauty that comes when we do.  The bible says that God wants to give us "beauty for ashes." Ashes are all those useless things in my life that no longer serve a life-giving purpose.  

With all these revelations and opportunities for growth I remembered that my tree guy Roger had just told me the week before that I had nine dead ash trees and we’d need to cut them down soon or they could fall without warning and perhaps cause some damage.  I called him immediately and we arranged for him to come over and remove all my dead ashes.

He came late in the day with his helper, a bucket truck, and a chipper. I watched from my upstairs window as one after another he started at the top and carefully cut down every single dead tree. As the pile of logs (ashes) got larger I was practically drooling with the anticipation of liberation from my cocoon as I forfeited all those ashes for even a glimpse of the beauty within my reach. 

 


 
Life Is Complicated
June 3, 2016

I am not someone who needs more of everything.  I am constantly weeding through what I have to sustain me, and giving away whatever I can. I choose to live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one. Plus, I work better when things are in good order.  Too many people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know. Truly ‘rich’ people need less to be happy.

Last month I asked a friend to help me empty my garage. I hadn’t cleaned out that space for ten years. We took everything out even the spare fence boards on the rafters, every tool, down to the last nail. It was cleansing to throw out old tiki lamps, rusted tools, an outdated inversion table, and then sorting through the rest, giving away what I didn’t need. It was heavenly putting back in what I wanted to keep. I am filled with peace when I slide open the garage door and see everything in its place.

Another way I have moved toward simplifying my life is to stop spending time with people who can’t make up their mind about me.  I want to spend what time I have with kind people who are smart and creative, people who I can relate to and relate to me. I surround myself with people who reflect the person I want to be.  I am proud of my friends they are good people. I admire and respect them.  My friends make me feel like a millionaire.

Like most of you, I am determined to create a better tomorrow and a better self.  I know I want to heal the broken places inside of me, expand my mind, make the most of this physical body and run a good race all the way to the finish line.  I want to be honest with myself and everyone else.  I believe in being kind and faithful and doing the right thing.  To me that is integrity and integrity is the foundation of everything that truly succeeds.  I embody joy when I do what my heart is leading me to do. 

That said, life is complicated. Even during those times when I embrace the mystery and challenge of finding that simpler way, when I stop doing the wrong things and start doing the right things life remains complex. Even overwhelming. I need to stay flexible and be prepared for curve balls and twists in the road and not be so surprised when they come.

I know life would be easier if I didn’t doubt myself.  When will I get it through my thick head that no one knows how I should act or what I should be doing? I understand that I am in a work in progress and even when I get it all together there will be a new level to aspire to. How wonderful are those moments when I realize I am good enough. Hopefully I am getting better and wiser all the time but the trick for me is to learn to love and accept myself no matter what. 

And that may be the simplest and most complicated lesson of all: I need to love myself.

I need to love myself.

Just saying that does wonders for my sanity and stress levels.  I know there’s a lot I don’t know but nobody has it all figured out.  The moment I allow myself to be me, acceptance sweeps into my soul and I feel a little less shaky and a little more able to live this complicated life in the simplest way I can.  

 


 
Leaving It All Behind
December 20, 2015

As a young girl shopping with my mom in the Piggly Wiggly, I often wandered off to help somebody find something.  Fifty years later I’m still helping people find things: keys, dreams, purpose, good health.

If life is a department store then I am that clerk who wants to know if she can help you find something . . . anything at all. I have an ability to help people find things, all sorts of things and sometimes when people start looking for something they wind up finding stuff they didn’t even know that they were looking for.            

Sometimes I even help myself find things I need. Like this morning as I was rummaging through papers on my desk before leaving to visit a friend in ICU, a very sick man who has tubes as numerous as veins trailing in and out of his body, and I found this quote from Steve Jobs: 

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart. . . Stay hungry.  Stay foolish.

 

I was still thinking about that quote when I arrived at the hospital and found my friend’s life hanging in the balance. I sat by his side wondering how I could ever forget to live my life as if time is running out. Why don’t I take more chances and love more fully?  Why don’t I go for what I want with everything I have?

And sitting there in the hospital room I found something I really needed to know about myself: I don’t want to undervalue life.  I love it here even when it is rough and I’m sad or hurting. I also don’t want to disappoint my deepest truest self.  It would be a shame to be so busy pretending to be alive that I fail to give the wonderful person within myself all that I can give her.  And I know I don’t want to miss out on all the glorious sensation and healing and sound and wonder of life. 

I want to explore the world just beyond my reach. I want to see if there isn’t more I am to do with all the mad cool ingredients that life has given me.  I want to break through my own narrow constructs and see the grand mystery and maybe even get a glimpse of truth while I am at it. 

My heart goes out to all of us who know what it feels like to sit beside a friend who is hooked up to tubes, existing somewhere in between life and death.  For the next hour as the ventilator hummed and other machines beeped I remembered how when I was that young girl shopping in Piggly Wiggly I would put everything in my cart that I wanted but as my mom and I got closer to the checkout I would un-shop and put back most of it.  I still do the same thing.  It’s a great feeling to just let myself fill my cart with everything I want, even if when it is time to check out I have to leave it all behind.


 
Positive on Purpose
November 17, 2015

I have known for decades that our thoughts affect our reality but I never found the gale force wind to blow me out of the boat of my negative and persistent patterns of thinking and behaving. I’ve used breath, affirmations, prayer, writing, exercises and countless other techniques to escape the traps set by my past and still I become that scared 10 year old over and over again.


 
 
Copyright © Julie Evans